ST. CHARLES – After playing 15 consecutive games away from home, the St. Charles East girls basketball team took advantage of finally returning to its home court Saturday night.
East beat Evanston, 49-44, in front of what senior guard Amanda Hilton called a very welcoming home crowd.
“It was amazing. We had a great crowd tonight which kept us going obviously, and we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Hilton said. "I thought we held our own and it is great to be 1-0 on our home court now, and we’ll move from there.”
Hilton led the Saints with 19 points and providing the spark to beat a formidable Evanston team.
Evanston (13-4) and East (8-8) ended the first half in a near stalemate, with the Saints heading in to the third quarter up, 18-17.
East’s Katelyn Claussner opened up the third period with a layup on the Saints’ first possession. After forward Chloe John Split a pair of free throws, Claussner hit a wide-open jump shot from the elbow to extend East’s lead to 23-17.
Evanston did not let East pull away, however. The Wildkits' Dashae Shumate hit a 3-pointer with two minutes to go in the third quarter to tie the game at 28. Hilton then hit a pair of free throws to put East up by two going in to the final period.
East quickly took over in the fourth quarter, launching a 7-0 run to begin the quarter that put Evanston away for good.
The Saints’ Kyra Washington opened up the run with a strong post move to the basket that yielded an easy basket. Keyana Williams then converted on a put-back after she grabbed an offensive rebound, and Hilton hit a 3-pointer on the Saints’ ensuing possession to extend the lead to 37-28.
Evanston made a late push in the fourth quarter led by Sierra Clayborn, who had four points in the final period. Clayborn hit a pair of free throws to cut the Saints’ lead to 47-44 with 7 seconds left in the game, but Washington made two free throws on the following possession to seal the win for East.
East coach Lori Drumtra was thrilled with how her team performed against a talented Evanston team.
“Evanston is a very athletic team. It was a good test for us,” Drumtra said. “It was just really tough defensive pressure and I thought (we) did a nice job against them. I don’t know how many teams we’ll see that’s that good defensively. There’s a couple, so it’s good to get this in.”
Hilton agreed with Drumtra that defense was Evanston’s strongsuit, and that East had to find a way to break through its pressure and get to the basket.
“They put pressure a lot,” Hilton said. “Going in to halftime we talked about that and how to get ourselves open and get them off our back. So I thought we did that great in the third quarter, and that’s when we started to pull away. We stuck together.”
Hilton had a game-high 19 points. She was joined by Washington (13) and Claussner (7) as East’s leading scorers.
East will hit the road once again next week, traveling to Streamwood on Tuesday before returning home for a matchup against Elgin on Saturday.