WHEATON – After holding a commanding lead for most of the first half, the St. Charles East girls basketball team saw it cut to five points late in the second quarter.
East needed a momentum swing heading into halftime to halt the surging Warriors. The Saints got one from sophomore Hannah Vitkus, who sparked the East to a 44-21 win against Waubonsie Valley on Thursday in consolation play at the Wheaton North Tournament.
With 8 seconds remaining in the quarter, the 5-foot-10 forward grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by a teammate and finished one of two put-back attempts as time expired, giving them a notable energy boost heading into the break as well as extending their lead to 23-16.
The spark from Vitkus’s basket carried over into the second half as junior guard Katelyn Claussner was able to get two quick scores for East (6-7), pushing its lead to 11. Waubonsie Valley (2-11) was never able to get the deficit back within double digits from there.
St. Charles East coach Lori Drumtra also credited the Saints’ defense for the second-half turnaround.
“We changed our defenses in the second half, from man-to-man into a zone, and I think that switching into the zone really helped,” Drumtra said.
With the team down 13 midway through the third quarter and in an effort to force turnovers, Waubonsie Valley switched defensively into a full-court press.
It proved fruitles, as East guards Claussner and Amanda Hilton were able to keep cool heads and break the press with ease throughout the rest of the game.
“We have solid ball-handling, so I’m never too worried when other teams try to press us,” Drumtra said. “We are always prepared for it and have several different ways to break it.”
The Saints’ offensive attack featured three players in double figures, including Claussner (11), Hilton (12) and the game’s leading scorer, Kyra Washington (13), who was also the Saints’ leading rebounder.