ST. CHARLES – Pass more, play in transition more, then bring on the high-fives.
St. Charles North’s blueprint for success during Tuesday’s girls basketball game against Crystal Lake South sounded elementary enough even if the team hadn’t recognized youth players before tipoff.
As the North Stars followed through after a tight first half, their grins and the path to a 68-60 victory only widened.
“We definitely just start out mellow,” junior forward Nichole Davidson said, “and then once we get the hang of it, we start playing as one and our strengths show up more.”
North (5-6) trailed, 31-30, at halftime, remaining close despite a Crystal Lake South rebounding edge keyed by senior forward Sara Mickow’s game-high 20 boards.
While North’s pep band performed “I Saw Her Standing There” during an early timeout, coach Sean Masoncup found himself yelling the title of another Beatles song more often.
Shouts of “Get back!” greeted a number of North Stars lapses to return to the defensive zone as the Gators worked the ball upcourt in transition. A 43-27 advantage on the glass allowed Crystal Lake South (8-5) plenty of chances to try, at least in the early going.
“We realized that we can’t double-pressure on the ball and keep pressuring the ball in the backcourt,” North sophomore forward Morgan Rosencrants said. “We needed to get back on ‘D’ so we wouldn’t get beat.”
Attacking the basket and defending with more even aggressiveness after the break allowed North to open the third quarter on a 9-0 run. Davidson, who finished with a game-high 21 points, scored seven points in that span.
Rosencrants wasn’t far behind, scoring 14 of her 20 points after halftime. Ashling Davern was next with 17 points, darting up the floor to follow plays after contributing a handful of steals.
With the North Stars (25 for 55, 45 percent) outshooting the Gators (20 for 57, 35 percent), any quick burst proved even more crucial.
“They came out and they just matched our intensity and took it to us there for a little while,” Crystal Lake South coach Kyle McCaughn said. “We went toe to toe with them for the better part of that first half, but, boy, they made a nice run there at the start of the third quarter, and we just didn’t respond.”
North overcame a double-double from Mickow, who tied Chanel Fanter for the team lead with 16 points. Kianna Clark added 12 points, including a runner that dropped just before the final buzzer.
By then, North knew it was about to exhale with a victory. Masoncup praised the team’s decision-making down the stretch as “just being heady.”
“Once we realized that we were up, we just kept going,” Rosencrants said. “We needed to build on our lead.”