WHEATON – Alex Silverman spotted the Wheaton Warrenville South girls basketball team seated behind the home bench Monday, scouting its opponent to be in a 4A Wheaton Warrenville South Regional semifinal tonight.
A St. Charles North senior guard, Silverman admitted the Tigers saw the North Stars do some foolish things in a 52-45 victory against Glenbard West in an opening-round game.
Still, North also showed resolve, which was something the team was lacking when it suffered a 22-point home loss to Wheaton Warrenville South in mid-December. Tonight brings a chance to give the top-seeded Tigers an even closer view of the North Stars’ turnaround.
“That was a really rough game. They beat us pretty bad,” Silverman said. “But you can’t think about that. It’s a new game, new day. We want to make a run in regionals and hopefully we can come out with a strong win [today].”
North (9-19) put itself in position to advance by attacking the Hilltoppers (10-18) and closing out the game from the foul line.
Led by Silverman’s 8 for 10 effort as part of a team-best 14-point game, North converted 18 of 24 free throws after intermission.
That total included a 16 for 22 showing in the fourth quarter alone.
North noticed its shot fakes were effective against 6-foot-3 Hilltoppers center Caitlin Soane and made sure to slash her way. Another key: spreading the ball to different players, who each showed an ability to attack from the perimeter against Glenbard West’s man-to-man defense.
“It’s a little bit more freelance,” North coach Colleen Backer said, “but that was helpful for us a little bit more.”
Glenbard West converted 12 of 14 free throws in the first half and got to the line with some regularity down the stretch. Led by guard Breanna Venson (19 points) and fellow senior Soane (12), the Hilltoppers charged.
Glenbard West trailed, 44-35, with 3:51 to play after two Silverman free throws. The team drew to within 47-45 with 1:20 to go before North pulled away from the line.
Sophomore Nicole Davidson and freshman Morgan Rosencrants both scored eight points apiece for the North Stars. Celebrating her 16th birthday, Davidson scored all of her points after halftime.
“We wanted to win on my birthday, and some girls kept saying, ‘Let’s win it for Nicole,’ and stuff,” Davidson said.
Backer has found the same determination in Davidson, a guard, on the other 364 days of the year.
“She wanted to win the ballgame. You could see it in her face,” Backer said. “And just that energy started becoming so contagious with our bench and everyone out there.”
North surpassed last season’s victory total and also avoided essentially the same ending its 2011-12 campaign, when the Hilltoppers won an opening-round regional game at Bartlett.
While the team won’t get another chance to practice before taking on the Tigers tonight, players are hopeful free-throw practice will pay off again.
The North Stars have been putting extra focus on them lately, running sprints between sets to simulate late-game fatigue.
“We were only up by a little bit at the end and we were trying to extend our lead, so we were trying to pump fake on the big girl [Soane] and be able to have her foul us,” Silverman said. “In the last seconds, we were just trying to hold on to the ball, take care of it and have the chance to extend our lead even bigger.”
North did, then celebrated with the Tigers looking on.