ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles East girls basketball team used a second quarter offensive explosion and carried momentum into the second half to defeat Batavia, 79-66, on Saturday in an Upstate Eight Conference River shootout.
The game started with a barrage of 3-pointers as the two teams combined for eight in the first quarter alone. The 3s balanced out to keep the game close early as the first quarter featured nine lead changes.
However, the Saints (13-11, 8-3 UEC River) were able to establish an 11-point lead at halftime and rode the hot shooting of junior guard Amanda Hilton to the victory. Hilton led all scorers with 29 points, including four 3-pointers, and ended the game four points shy of her career high. Hilton credited extra time in the gym working on her shot for her hot shooting, along with her teammates setting solid screens that allowed her to get open shots.
“A lot of it was screens, we screened the girls this time and not air. … Our cuts were hard and we exploded off of them and found the open girl," Hilton said.
The Bulldogs (15-9, 6-4) went to a full-court press throughout the second half to try and slow down the Saints' guards. The press, however, was rarely effective and led to easy shots for St. Charles East. Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen,said he was not pleased with his team's defensive effort.
“We didn’t do any of the things we worked on that was our deficiency [on defense],” Jensen said. “How we came off of screens off the balls, how we defended ball screens, how we try not to allow middle penetration … We didn’t do any of those things successfully tonight.”
Hilton opened the second half by draining a 3-pointer. The Saints then saw their lead grow to 14 after a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Katie Claussner, who ended with 20 points. The Bulldogs answered with a small rally led by junior captain Liza Fruendt as she hit a 3-pointer and followed with a floater in the lane to cut the Saints' lead to nine.
But, with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, sophomore forward Kyra Washington answered Fruendt with a 3-pointer and the Saints finished the third quarter with a 17-point lead. The Bulldogs would not get closer than 10 points for the remainder of the game.
Washington, who fouled out with 5:57 left in the game, ended with 10 points for the Saints and junior forward Hannah Nowling added five points and several key offensive rebounds. Fruendt led the Bulldogs with 19, while junior post Erin Bayram ended with 10 points.
East coach Lori Drumtra said her team's ability to withstand the third quarter run by the Bulldogs is what ultimately sealed the victory for her team.
“The key was coming out in the second half and not coming out flat … They had a 6-2 run (to start the second half) and I called a timeout right away,” Drumtra said. “I calmed the girls down, and said I thought they were rushing a bit. We just talked about making better decisions … That kind of got them re-focused, and we went from there."
Drumtra said she is looking forward to a possible third game between the two teams at the St. Charles East Regional, and said Saturday's win gives the Saints confidence after East was dominated by the Bulldogs in Batavia, 74-49, earlier this month.
“It just gives you a lot of confidence knowing that you can put 79 points on the board," Drumtra said.