ST. CHARLES – Amanda Hilton emerged from the St. Charles East girls basketball team’s locker room Tuesday and greeted many of the players she had just seen.
At that point, only the setting was different. Several Saints’ frustrated moods after a 62-53 loss to Streamwood persisted.
While Hilton wasn’t a cut-up, her even-keel raised at least a few teammates’ chins as they visited with friends and family. Whether the Saints can similarly turn their fortunes in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race remains to be seen, but they’re at least sporting resolve.
“We never gave up, and that’s something about St. Charles East girls basketball. We never give up. We’ve come a long way this season, and, you know, we’re going to keep our heads high,” Hilton said. “We’ve still got Batavia. We’ve still got other games, and better yet, we still have the postseason, which we expect our team to go far.”
That last part wasn’t an official concession of the conference title, although Saints coach Lori Drumtra later called the team’s biggest focus gearing up for the 4A regional it hosts next month.
Streamwood (18-4, 8-1 UEC River) remained on course for the program’s first outright conference title in 25 seasons by responding to the Saints’ resilience with an efficient running game.
East (12-11, 7-3) and Geneva (6-2 UEC River) are among the teams still in contention as the Sabres prepare to host the Vikings in a key game Friday.
On Tuesday, the Saints fell behind by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, then took the lead just after halftime. When the Sabres surged to another double-digit cushion in the fourth, the Saints drew close again, getting combo scoring from guards Hilton and Carly Pottle to come within 56-53, with 2:15 to play.
At that point, the Sabres could rely on the fruits of their pressure and transition game, which forced the Saints into turnovers and fouls earlier in the half. Streamwood converted just six of its 12 free throws in the last 2:15, but the Saints’ struggles to score down the stretch made the lead stand up.
“This one meant a lot to us, you know,” Streamwood senior guard Deja Moore said. “I saw all my teammates at school today. ‘You ready for today?’ Everyone was excited. We came out ready to play. We let them come back for a little bit, but [none] of us wanted to lose this game. We want to make history at Streamwood High.”
Moore and Hilton shared high-scoring honors with 20 points apiece. Along with defense – often a 2-3 shadow zone with Moore following Hilton and the rest of the Sabres filling their spots – Streamwood’s versatility helped it create enough space to win.
Limited to three 3-pointers, Sabres senior wing Jessica Cerda still finished with 18 points by attacking and converting free throws, helping Streamwood to a 21 for 30 night from the foul line.
Labeled “an absolute monster on the boards” by her coach, George Rosner, junior center Hannah McGlone contributed 19 points and 14 rebounds, often scoring on the back end of fast breaks.
While Drumtra didn’t realize the free throw discrepancy until after the game – the Saints converted 4 of 6 attempts – she saw the team’s overall impatience on offense as the biggest difference. Pottle (14 points) and senior Laney Deckrow (six points, 11 rebounds) provided secondary scoring as East finished 23 of 66 from the field.
“When we got close, the turnovers came and we started to rush it,” Drumtra said. “You’ve got to know that, OK, we’ve got the momentum here. Let’s make them play a little defense. And we got into that running game. That was a little frustrating. I’m thinking just a couple more passes and the lane’s going to open up that much more.
“But we weren’t doing that. I think the adrenaline was flying through our bodies and to slow it down a little bit probably would have been to our advantage.”
McGlone notched a double-double in the teams’ first meeting last month, collecting 12 points and 13 rebounds as East struggled to defend her size in the half-court. The Saints counterattacked much as they have all season, using speed and pressure to key a 10-0, fourth-quarter run that allowed them to win by nine.
Rosner vowed then that the Sabres would play truer to form in the rematch, being more careful with the ball and more sturdy under the boards. Both proved true, and the team will look to stay sound when it hosts Geneva. A few Vikings watched Tuesday’s game from the stands.