STREAMWOOD – When the basketball wound up in the hands of Jake Asquini 60 feet from the basket with one second left in the third quarter Friday, there was a sense in the Streamwood High School gymnasium that – given the way the St. Charles East sophomore had been shooting after halftime – he might just make a shot from that distance.
He didn’t, but almost every other shot Asquini took in the second half was on target.
His 15 points – all after halftime – helped the Saints (14-8, 7-3) to a 61-43 victory as they attempted to stay alive in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race.
Unfortunately for East, Larkin (10-2 UEC River) clinched the conference title with a 72-52 win at Geneva.
The Saints led just 35-32 when Asquini started his scoring rampage with 2:40 left in the third quarter. He scored the next 12 points of the game – all from beyond the arc – to put East up by 15.
“Once the first one goes, my confidence boosts up a lot,” Asquini said. “That’s kind of how I am.”
Asquini’s hot shooting forced the Sabres (10-17, 2-9 UEC River) to abandon the 2-3 zone they had employed with some success since the start of the game.
“The best way to break a zone is to shoot the ball well and Jake did that for us in the second half,” East coach Pat Woods said. “I thought our kids did a good job of trying to find him as he started heating up.”
Streamwood switched to a man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter, but Asquini still got open for one more 3-pointer with 3:45 to play that put the Saints up by 18, 55-37.
“My teammates did a good job finding me for all those shots,” Asquini said. “I didn’t create any of them. They found me on all of those and I just knocked them down.”
Asquini’s ascendance coincided with the descent of Streamwood senior Joel Lightbourne. His 14 first-half points, mostly on short-range jumpers, boosted the Sabres to a 24-23 lead at the half, but the Saints held him to two points in the second half.
“We started with our bigger guy, [6-foot-6 junior] Dave Mason on him,” Woods said of East’s second-half defense. “I thought he did a good job, but we wanted to get some different looks offensively. And then Ben [Skoog] regrouped and got back in and I thought he did a good job. We helped a lot on him, too.”
Skoog also had one of his better games offensively, scoring 11 points.
East’s aggressive man-to-man defense forced the Sabres into 22 turnovers, twice as many as the Saints.
East also held a 29-23 edge in rebounding.
“I thought A.J. [Washington] and Ben were great on the boards and I thought that was a big factor, as well,” Woods said. “We emphasized rebounds [at the half]. That’s the one big thing we emphasized.”
Skoog snared five rebounds and Washington grabbed six to go along with seven points.
Washington’s first quarter steal and jam was the crowd-pleasing highlight of the game.
Sophomore Cole Gentry (eight points) played a solid floor game for the Saints, who host Batavia tonight.