ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles East boys basketball team didn’t work hard enough on the boards in Tuesday’s game, so Saints coach Pat Woods promised East will make amends in practice.
Naperville North dominated East in the rebounding department as the Huskies survived a turnover-riddled night by both teams to win the nonconference game, 61-58.
Woods made his remedy for East’s rebounding ills clear.
“It’s called practice,” Woods said. “We’re going to fix that problem really quick or we’re going to be the best-conditioned team in the Kane County area.”
Naperville North (14-8) won its fifth straight game, while slumping East (12-11) dropped its third in a row.
East senior forward AJ Washington had 11 rebounds to go with 13 points and seven blocked shots but none of his teammates gathered more than three rebounds as the Huskies won the rebounding battle by 20, by the Saints’ count.
“We have one guy rebounding right now, and that’s AJ,” Woods said. “We’ve got to get five guys rebounding, and until that happens, we’re going to continue to struggle.”
The Saints’ full-court defensive pressure rattled the Huskies consistently, presenting a multitude of extra opportunities. But East had its own uncharacteristic ball-handling woes, committing a season-high 23 turnovers, only three fewer than Naperville North.
“If we’re turning them over, great, but when we turn over the turnover that we get, it doesn’t matter,” Woods said.
On those sporadic occasions when Naperville North beat East’s press, the Huskies hit paydirt.
“When we didn’t turn it over, we scored, because they were pressing so much, so I think that was the key to the thing,” Naperville North coach Jeff Powers said. “I know coach Woods is such a great coach and he just put that pressure on us to see how we’d handle it, and we didn’t handle it very well at times, but then when we did, we got baskets.”
In addition to their turnover binge, the Huskies nearly gave the game away late at the free-throw line. Naperville North missed four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds, and East drew within 59-58 on a Cole Gentry 3-pointer before calling timeout with 4.9 seconds to play.
Washington then committed his fifth foul on Naperville North’s Michael Laurenzo with 2.8 seconds, and Laurenzo made both for the game’s final points. East called a timeout and forward Mick Vyzral’s long inbound pass found Dom Adduci, whose twisting, 25-footer to tie it rimmed off.
Adduci scored 20 points to lead East while Washington and Gentry (12) also were in double figures. The last of Washington’s points came on an off-balanced basket while being fouled with 43 seconds to play to make it 56-55 Naperville North.
Washington’s attempt to tie it at the foul line was no good, and the rebound was batted out of bounds to the Huskies. Naperville North’s Anthony Rehayem then fired a baseball-style, deep inbound pass to Jelani McClain, Jr., who snared the pass in stride and scored while drawing a foul from Zach Manibog. McClain (team-high 17 points) completed the crucial three-point play for a 59-55 lead with 37 seconds to play.
“Anthony loves to think he’s a quarterback and throw that long pass, and Jelani’s a pretty special sophomore, and he played big today,” Powers said.
East started hot, leading 20-15 after the first quarter, but the game gradually turned as the Saints continued a recent pattern of struggling to win when their 3-point shots aren’t falling.
Woods is optimistic East will be able to fix its problems before the postseason.
“I’d rather get it all out now and just prepare for regionals,” he said.