ST. CHARLES – This time, the St. Charles North girls basketball team finished.
After flirting with a big upset at first-place Batavia less than two weeks ago, North completed its mission Thursday, beating the Bulldogs, 53-49, to put the Upstate Eight Conference River race up for grabs in the closing days of the conference race.
Batavia's second loss in its last three outings creates a tie atop the conference between Batavia and Geneva. The Bulldogs head to Streamwood on Saturday while Geneva visits the surging North Stars.
North forward Morgan Rosencrants scored 18 of her 20 points in the first half while guard Ashling Davern face-guarded Batavia standout Liza Fruendt all over the floor, much like the teams' first meeting in Batavia.
"There weren't many adjustments at all," Davern said. "It was the same plan because we knew we just fell short in the last game, so we knew if we just executed a little bit better that this time we'd be able to get the win."
North (13-11, 7-4 UEC River) led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter but the Bulldogs (17-8, 9-2) scored the final six points of the quarter to come within 45-40.
A sloppy fourth quarter by both teams grew tense in the closing minutes, especially after Fruendt was fouled on a 3-point shot and made all three free throws to bring the Bulldogs within 50-49 with 52 seconds to play.
North forward Nichole Davidson then knifed into the lane for a driving layup with 31 seconds to go to put North on top, 52-49.
"Most coaches would just take it out, but we're such an attacking team," North coach Sean Masoncup said. "We've gotten into that mentality, the coaching staff at all three levels. We're attack, attack, attack. When we pull off the gas, we tend to make mistakes."
Rosencrants then pounced on a loose ball at the other end to give North possession back, and the North Stars were on the verge of a marquee victory.
"It definitely earned us a lot of respect, that's pretty much all I can say, especially with being the ninth seed and beating a third seed," said Rosencrants, referring to the Class 4A sectional seedings that were released earlier Thursday.
Rosencrants was assertive going to the rim in the early stages, attempting eight free throws in the first quarter alone, but she and Davidson – North's top two players – had to sit for much of the second quarter with two fouls apiece.
Foul trouble swung both ways in the tightly called game. Fruendt picked up her third foul with 8 seconds left in the first half on a charging call. She finished with 17 points as Davern and the other North Stars were mostly successful in forcing other Bulldogs to beat them.
"This is the game of basketball so of course there's competitive edge but I respect her – she's such a great player, and she has done so much over her career," Davern said of Fruendt. "I just knew I had to play my best along with my teammates to stop her. It was a competitive game out there, that's for sure."
Batavia's other Division I-bound senior, post player Erin Bayram, scored 10 points in the first quarter but didn't attempt another field goal until midway through the fourth quarter.
"Part of it is when she got off to a hot start, they'd have a girl behind her, and after her hot start, a back-side girl was always coming racing in, and we had a couple turnovers on that," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said.
Despite sweeping Geneva, Batavia now must beat Streamwood to clinch even a share of the conference title. The Bulldogs lost a home game to St. Charles East on Saturday.
"We've got to take care of business on Saturday," Jensen said. "We've let two teams of which we've beat come back and beat us within one week."
North, meanwhile, appears to be playing its best ball of the season, but will face another stiff challenge against a Geneva team that walloped the North Stars when the teams met in Geneva.
"We are really hitting our stride," Masoncup said. "I wouldn't want to play us, if I'm anybody."
Davidson added 14 points for North while freshman Sami Sample chipped in five of her seven points in the second half.
Hannah Frazier added 12 points for the Bulldogs, who went into the locker room at halftime tied at 31 despite making only 2 of 9 from the foul line in the second quarter.