BATAVIA – “She’s a stud!”
That was the pronouncement of Amanda Hilton as she hugged teammate Katie Claussner following St. Charles East’s 53-48 upset of Batavia Saturday night.
Claussner, a junior guard, scored 22 points as the Saints (11-13, 4-6) pulled off the shocker of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division girls basketball season, handing the Bulldogs (16-7, 8-1) their first league loss and spoiling senior night for Batavia Division I-bound standouts Liza Fruendt and Erin Bayram.
“Liza Fruendt is an amazing player – the best player I‘ve ever played against,” Claussner said. “We had to force her, we had to stop her, and our defense was oriented around stopping her, and that’s what we did. But I respect her whole-heartedly.”
East employed a box-and-one defense with MacKenzie Meadows and Kelly Rinker taking turns guarding Fruendt, who still scored 21 points, including hitting a shot from Rockford at the third-quarter buzzer. Well, that might not be precisely accurate, but she was definitely running near the Wisconsin border on the Illinois map at half-court when she let the shot fly.
“Even though we played a box-and-one on Liza, it’s not one person’s responsibility to stop her,” East coach Lori Drumtra said. “We all have to be aware of it. We all have to help out. And I thought they did a great job.”
The Saints dominated the boards, pulling down 45 rebounds, 17 more than the Bulldogs. Hannah Nowling secured 11 rebounds, Chloe John grabbed nine, and Keyana Williams nabbed seven. East held a 23-10 edge on the glass at halftime and a 28-19 edge on the scoreboard.
“They beat us in the first half, without a doubt,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “They beat us to every rebound and loose ball – everything that somebody would describe as a 50-50 ball.”
The Bulldogs also were hampered by poor shooting at the free-throw line (10 of 23) and from virtually point-blank range.
“I had us on our shot chart as 11 of 29 on our layups,” Jensen said. “That’s nearly 50 points left out there.”
Jensen said he also was disappointed in Batavia’s defense. The Bulldogs played man-to-man most of the game, but the 5-5 Claussner used quickness and deft ball-handling to repeatedly attack the basket and 6-1 junior Kyra Washington (16 points) inflicted damage from long range, hitting five 3-pointers.
“Me and Kyra – we’ve known each other forever,” Claussner said. “We just have great chemistry on the court.”
“Katie’s really playing well,” Drumtra said. “Her outside shot is starting to come through. Kyra’s playing very, very well. Everybody else, I asked them to just play solid.”
With Hilton out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, East’s offense is now Claussner’s to run.
“Losing Amanda was obviously a terrible thing,” Claussner said. “She’s my mentor and she’s taught me a lot of stuff.”
Bayram scored 10 points for Batavia and Hannah Frazier added eight before fouling out. Frazier scored inside with 3:10 left in the game to cut the East lead to 44-42, but the Bulldogs could get no closer.
Bayram, bound for Boston University, and Fruendt, a Missouri State recruit, can take solace from the fact this was not their final appearance on their home court. The Bulldogs will host an Upstate Eight Conference crossover game to end the regular season and Batavia also will host a Class 4A regional.