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Girls basketball insider: St. Charles North getting an 'A' for 'D'

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Shaw Media file photo)
St. Charles North girls basketball coach Sean Masoncup pointed to the team's defensive aggressiveness as a catalyst for its 2-2 finish in Dundee-Crown's Charger Classic.

Take away a lapse against eventual tournament champion New Trier, and St. Charles North allowed an average of 49 points in its other three Dundee-Crown Charger Classic games.

That's the sort of defense North Stars coach Sean Masoncup has preached since taking the reins of the program in the spring. Looks like he can scratch one item from that 2014 wish list.

"It's starting to come together," Masoncup said. "We're getting more pressure on the ball. I think that we're doing a better job of denying the wings and getting better on help-side. Once we're aggressive, we're a much better team."

Junior guard Kyla Helsel's tenacity often is the sparkplug.

"She starts it, and we feed off her energy on defense," Masoncup said.

North proved just as reactionary on offense in Monday's Classic finale, a 63-53 win against Naperville Central that earned a 2-2 tournament split. With the Redhawks defending junior forward Nichole Davidson (22 points) with a box-and-one after halftime, Kyla Helsel (11 points) and Sam Novak (nine) eased the pressure from the backcourt.

The North Stars will look to sustain their momentum when they visit Geneva in Upstate Eight Conference River Division play on Jan. 10.

(Hand) check and seeEntering the season, the IHSA, in conjunction with the National Federation of State High School Associations, stressed that officials whistle more contact fouls. The idea was to cut down on physical play, a maneuver that has been met with mixed reviews since it was implemented.

Kaneland senior center Kelly Wallner finds the even-keeled approach has worked best in approaching the rule. If fouls can be objective as it is, what's the use in being too opinionated either way?

"Even if the refs aren't giving you everything, you've still got to play through it," Wallner said. "It's what basketball is."

Chargers on their markAurora Central Catholic coach Mark Fitzgerald branded the Chargers' late afternoon tipoffs at the Oswego East Christmas Tournament "a rehearsal for state."

"When we go downstate – wink, wink, nod, nod – you'll be playing at a time like this," he told players of the Class 3A semifinal schedule.

Known for his motivational tactics throughout a career that's seen him help ACC ascend from perennial straggler to a recent berth in the 2A state tournament, Fitzgerald may be onto something with his matinee musings before long.

"Our arrow is definitely pointed up," he said. "The kids are getting real comfortable in playing together. For the fist time, I'm seeing all the dividends and all the investments we put into the young kids this year and last year pay off."

ACC features just two seniors on its roster, and freshman center Taylor Harazin has developed quickly.

– Kevin Druley, kdruley@shawmedia.com

IN THE GROOVE

Nichole Davidson, St. Charles North, Jr., F
What she did:
Davidson scored 29, 25 and 22 points in North's final three games at Dundee-Crown's Charger Classic, helping the North Stars go 2-1. "She's been killing it lately," North coach Sean Masoncup said.

Amanda Hilton, St. Charles East, Sr., G
What she did:
Hilton earned all-tournament honors for the Saints at Wheaton North, including a 14-point effort in a loss to Willowbrook in Saturday's consolation championship.

WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEKDon't forget the 'Battlin' ' before Bulldogs. Facing Huntley for seventh place in the Montini Christmas Tournament on Saturday afternoon, Batavia nearly overcame a 17-point deficit in an eventual 63-55 loss to the Red Raiders, who defeated Geneva by 11 to open tourney play.

WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEADHow St. Charles East fares in its home opener. In a scheduling quirk, the Saints will not play before their Superfans until Evanston visits at 6 p.m. Saturday. After that, East is slated to host seven of its last 10 regular-season games, including an Upstate Eight Conference crossover on Feb. 13. The Saints played their first home game on Nov. 30 last season and in 2011-12.

COACH SLY SAYS

Whew. What a whirlwind of tournament games in the last week-plus.

Sly knows he doesn't need it as much as the players do, but he's glad most teams are taking a little respite until the second week of January.

Batavia and Burlington Central are in that number, but neither side should be sulking despite taking a few Ls over the holidays. B-Town and BC both have aspirations for deep playoff runs, and these are the kinds of things teams learn from along the way.

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