After watching his team go toe-to-toe with four-time defending IHSA Class 4A state champion Simeon on Friday, St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin admired the sustained mental toughness North exhibited.
"You have to play every, single possession at the highest level you've played against Simeon," Poulin said. "Honestly. Otherwise, they'll embarrass you. A mistake is a dunk or a layup or an open look.
"So it is taxing but at the end of that second overtime, we said maybe after one quarter it was a fluke, maybe at halftime it was a lucky three-point lead. We're going into the third overtime. There's nothing lucky about this. You guys are competing at a high level, let's just keep it up."
Poulin was especially proud of his team's attention to fundamental detail.
Making crisp passes and sound decisions were no luxury against a team of the Wolverines' caliber.
"All the things we always say, but don't always have to do to win, we had to do to win [Friday], or just to get to three overtimes," Poulin said. "Everything you teach on a daily basis, it's for a game like this. You're going to need to do those things to pull out a win."
North senior Alec Goetz's 36-point outburst against Simeon will go down as one of the most impressive individual performances in North basketball history. He made eight 3-pointers in the game, most of which coming after Simeon was acutely aware that he was the guy who had to be stopped.
"What I was impressed with is when they started tagging him or face-guarding him and you hear the coaches saying 'Don't let him touch it,' he still was able to get open, and teammates were able to get him open and put the ball right where he needs it to catch and release," Poulin said.
'Signature' W for Vikings
Geneva's record (11-3 heading into Monday night's game against East Aurora) is strong, but plenty of teams ticketed for the rugged IHSA Class 4A East Aurora Sectional will be well above .500.
One of those other teams is Neuqua Valley, making Saturday's 60-55 win against Neuqua in pool play at East Aurora even bigger for the Vikings.
"This is one of those great, signature wins," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said after the Neuqua victory, which advanced Geneva to Monday's tournament championship game. "You want wins like this. We've been saying it all season. Can we say we've beaten teams that may have had better talent?
"I don't know if Neuqua's talent is necessarily that much better than ours but I do think they are at least as talented, if not more, than we are. So when we're able to get a win like this, especially when it got to two points and we withstood that storm, I think that really shows a lot of character."
For the second straight year, Batavia leaves the Elgin Holiday Tournament feeling much better about itself than it did heading in.
After lugging a 3-7 record into the tournament before taking third place at Elgin in 2012, this year's Bulldogs received a similar pick-me-up, going 3-1 in the tournament after Saturday's 69-51, fifth-place win against Rockford East.
The Bulldogs (5-8) will aim to capitalize on their tournament momentum when they return to action Saturday against visiting South Elgin.
IN THE GROOVE
Alec Goetz, St. Charles North, Sr., G
What he did: Goetz made a statewide name for himself in resounding fashion, scoring 36 points in Friday's triple overtime loss against Simeon. Goetz was selected as part of the prestigious Pontiac all-tournament first team.
R.D. Lutze, Aurora Christian, So., F
What he did: Entering Monday's final round of the 24-team Plano Christmas Classic, Lutze's 54 points were seventh most among players in the tournament.
– Jay Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
St. Charles North has brass … nerves.
The North Stars took the floor against a Simeon program that is nationally renowned and took it to the Wolverines for much of Friday's game before falling in triple overtime.
Playing competitively against a formidable Bloom team – losing by only one point – with just eight hours' rest after the Simeon showdown also was impressive.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How the big stage agrees with Kaneland and Geneva.
The former conference rivals will clash at the United Center on Saturday afternoon.
The teams might not equal the amount of dunks that will take place later that night between the Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks, but with three 6-foot-7 players, the Vikings rate the best shot to rattle the NBA rims.
COACH SLY SAYS
Color Sly impressed with the overall performance of Tri-Cities teams this holiday week.
St. Charles North led the charge with an incredible effort down at Pontiac, but Geneva, St. Charles East and even struggling Batavia have to like the momentum they're carrying into 2014.
And to think, as well as North, East and Geneva have played, Larkin remains the clear favorite to win the UEC River. But at this rate, it won't come easily for the Royals, and there could be some interesting twists along the way.