ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles East girls basketball team refused to be pushed around this time.
With defense, rebounding and overall toughness the foundation of East’s approach, the Saints earned a sweet victory Friday over St. Charles North, 60-49, to win the IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional championship.
The regional title was the program’s first since the 2008-09 season, also captured versus North. While Friday’s win was nowhere near the upset of that last title, the Saints still had plenty to prove, coming off a drubbing at the hands of the North Stars in the teams’ most recent meeting this season, also played at North.
“I was nervous, but I knew that wasn’t the team we had become,” East freshman Sara Rosenfeldt said. “We played differently. We knew that we could do this, we just had to believe in ourselves.”
East advances to Monday’s Geneva Sectional semifinal against top-seeded Conant.
North – featuring a tall and contact-relishing frontcourt – can be an intimidating opponent, but East didn’t flinch, with Rosenfeldt – not your typical freshman – setting the tone with six rebounds in the opening quarter.
“She’s hard to push around, she really is,” East coach Lori Drumtra said. “She’s solid. As a freshman, oh my gosh, she’s really, really solid. She was working so hard in the first half, I had to give her a break. I mean, she was gasping for air. She just doesn’t know how to go slow, which is fine with me. She just puts so much energy into it.”
East (21-7) led, 20-19, at halftime, and gradually pulled away throughout the second half, expanding its lead to 35-28 entering the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Samantha Munroe (game-high 18 points) drained a crucial 3-pointer to put East ahead, 40-32, with 6:05 to play in the fourth, and North (19-9) never fully recovered.
Other than periods of cold shooting, there was little with which to find fault for the Saints, who took better care of the ball than North and effectively milked the clock down the stretch in winning their 10th game in a row.
“I think we played very well as a team today,” Munroe said. “We were all team players, no selfish shots or anything. It was like a family.”
The two regular-season meetings – with each team winning on its home court – were bruising games, and with a regional title on the line, that theme remained in full effect. East senior Kyra Washington might have been fortunate to avoid a flagrant foul call during the second quarter, and battles for rebounds were fiercely contested.
“I think it got a little tough,” Munroe said. “Crosstown rival, it’s going to get a little risky, but it’s just a game. There’s nothing really personal out there. It’s all competitive. It’s a tough game, they just wanted it as bad as we did.”
East senior guard Katie Claussner scored 14 points while playing ball-hawking defense, while Rosenfeldt scored 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
“I knew North was a great rebounding team,” Rosenfeldt said. “They have Nichole (Davidson), they have Morgan (Rosencrants), they have Claire (Jakaitis), who are all really good rebounders, so we knew a key to the game was to rebound. So I just took control from the start with the rebounds.”
Washington, battling foul trouble, scored all seven of her points in the fourth quarter but made her greatest contribution defending Davidson, held to two points in the first half before finishing with 13, sharing team-high scoring honors with Rosencrants (11 rebounds). Jakaitis added 12 points for North, which managed only one field goal during the third quarter.
“We’re proud because we had a good season but we’re still a very competitive team, so we’re definitely upset and disappointed about it because we thought we could definitely rattle them,” Davidson said. “I don’t know, it just wasn’t our night.”
Referencing North’s 61-43 thrashing of her team last month, Drumtra said the game represented “kind of hitting bottom” as East lost the fourth game of a five-game losing streak.
“I didn’t think our effort was good. I thought we kind of gave up a little bit,” Drumtra said. “After that, we talked a lot about it. They knew. We made some adjustments, we made some changes in the lineup that I thought would help us a little bit, and then we kind of went on a tear.”
East’s opponent Monday, Conant, handed the Saints the final defeat in their January skid in an uptempo, 70-64 Cougars win in St. Charles. Drumtra isn’t putting limits on East’s postseason upside.
“Hey, if I get this effort, I feel pretty good,” Drumtra said.