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Quick read: Former Saints hail elusive hardware

St. Charles East students were rowdy throughout Friday's IHSA Class 4A St. Charles Regional championship victory against Batavia, but the crowd also included a number of giddy former Saints players.
St. Charles East students were rowdy throughout Friday's IHSA Class 4A St. Charles Regional championship victory against Batavia, but the crowd also included a number of giddy former Saints players.

ST. CHARLES – A wall of St. Charles East faculty members subdued the Orange Fever student section for a few brief moments Friday, keeping the peace during the overlap of a boys basketball game ending and bedlam ensuing.

But this was the program’s biggest win in nearly a decade, so something had to give. In this case, young legs, young hearts and full-throated voices prevailed.

Students joined their muses in saluting East’s 58-41, home-court victory against Batavia for a Class 4A regional championship, prompting the school’s familiar “WE ST. CHARLES, YEAH, YEAH!” chant. Can you believe that rallying cry hasn’t accompanied a Saints regional title since the 2006-07 season? Several athletes who attempted the feat in the interim knew, and their pride only swelled as they watched the celebration from courtside.

“It’s awesome,” said former Saints guard Jake Asquini, a 2015 graduate now playing at Roosevelt University. “Obviously, I didn’t get to win one in my three years and that’s unfortunate for me, but it’s really cool to see these guys finally get to cut down the nets and hold that trophy. It’s really nice to see, and they deserve it. They’ve been working hard.”

When he wasn’t directing the Saints’ fast-paced assault on the regional’s top seed and reigning Upstate Eight Conference River Division champs, East coach Pat Woods was sporadically spotting familiar faces in the crowd.

Before the game, as with so many others, he read “numerous texts” of well-wishes from players he’s coached. Woods, who has 89 wins at East as he continues his fifth season, remains incredibly humbled, but never surprised.

“You know, this is for those guys that had been there and were so close,” Woods said. “Saints family is what we talk about, and I keep in touch with my guys. ... It’s a tight family, and it’s not just for the team here, it’s for all of us. And that’s the great part about this place.”

It’s even better when the past helps cultivate the present and future.

Saints junior guard Zach Mitchell, who has fueled the starting five in style in his return from a broken arm suffered during the Saints’ Thanksgiving tournament in November, routinely channels memories of several current and former East players. Senior guard James McQuillan and recent graduates Cole Gentry (2015) and A.J. Washington (2014) are among them.

“I’ve been on the bench a few times and got to see how those guys stay composed in big moments, and I’ve tried to incorporate that into my game,” Mitchell said.

Washington, who just concluded his two-season run at Elgin Community College, was one of about a dozen former players on hand Friday. He laughed when asked if he still was the same high-flying A.J. Washington – “I am. I am. But I’ve developed a 3-pointer,” he said – before discussing his alma mater in a more serious tone.

Reminiscing came easily as the Saints filed exuberantly past Washington and Co. toward the postgame locker room.

“The seniors, they came in as freshmen when I was there,” Washington said, “and to see some of them succeed like this … especially coach Woods, who’s been a great guy for me and still helps me with recruiting to this day and gets me where I need to be. I’m happy to see him win it.”

Washington aspires to climb from ECC to the NCAA Division II level. Wherever he lands, his plans don’t include losing contact with Woods and his former teammates.

Ditto for Asquini, who firmed up his travel plans for Wednesday’s Rock Valley College Sectional semifinal against Prairie Ridge in a matter of seconds.

“I might. We’ll see,” Asquini said when asked if he’d be Rockford-bound.

“Maybe for. … Yeah, I probably will. Might as well.”

• Kevin Druley is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinDruley.

ST. CHARLES – A wall of St. Charles East faculty members subdued the Orange Fever student section for a few brief moments Friday, keeping the peace during the overlap of a boys basketball game ending and bedlam ensuing.

But this was the program’s biggest win in nearly a decade, so something had to give. In this case, young legs, young hearts and full-throated voices prevailed.

Students joined their muses in saluting East’s 58-41, home-court victory against Batavia for a Class 4A regional championship, prompting the school’s familiar “WE ST. CHARLES, YEAH, YEAH!” chant. Can you believe that rallying cry hasn’t accompanied a Saints regional title since the 2006-07 season? Several athletes who attempted the feat in the interim knew, and their pride only swelled as they watched the celebration from courtside.

“It’s awesome,” said former Saints guard Jake Asquini, a 2015 graduate now playing at Roosevelt University. “Obviously, I didn’t get to win one in my three years and that’s unfortunate for me, but it’s really cool to see these guys finally get to cut down the nets and hold that trophy. It’s really nice to see, and they deserve it. They’ve been working hard.”

When he wasn’t directing the Saints’ fast-paced assault on the regional’s top seed and reigning Upstate Eight Conference River Division champs, East coach Pat Woods was sporadically spotting familiar faces in the crowd.

Before the game, as with so many others, he read “numerous texts” of well-wishes from players he’s coached. Woods, who has 89 wins at East as he continues his fifth season, remains incredibly humbled, but never surprised.

“You know, this is for those guys that had been there and were so close,” Woods said. “Saints family is what we talk about, and I keep in touch with my guys. ... It’s a tight family, and it’s not just for the team here, it’s for all of us. And that’s the great part about this place.”

It’s even better when the past helps cultivate the present and future.

Saints junior guard Zach Mitchell, who has fueled the starting five in style in his return from a broken arm suffered during the Saints’ Thanksgiving tournament in November, routinely channels memories of several current and former East players. Senior guard James McQulllan and recent graduates Cole Gentry (2015) and A.J. Washington (2014) are among them.

“I’ve been on the bench a few times and got to see how those guys stay composed in big moments, and I’ve tried to incorporate that into my game,” Mitchell said.

Washington, who just concluded his two-season run at Elgin Community College, was one of about a dozen former players on hand Friday. He laughed when asked if he still was the same high-flying A.J. Washington – “I am. I am. But I’ve developed a 3-pointer,” he said – before discussing his alma mater in a more serious tone.

Reminiscing came easily as the Saints filed exuberantly past Washington and Co. toward the postgame locker room.

“The seniors, they came in as freshmen when I was there,” Washington said, “and to see some of them succeed like this … especially coach Woods, who’s been a great guy for me and still helps me with recruiting to this day and gets me where I need to be. I’m happy to see him win it.”

Washington aspires to climb from ECC to the NCAA Division II level. Wherever he lands, his plans don’t include losing contact with Woods and his former teammates.

Ditto for Asquini, who firmed up his travel plans for Wednesday’s Rock Valley College Sectional semifinal against Prairie Ridge in a matter of seconds.

“I might. We’ll see,” Asquini said when asked if he’d be Rockford-bound.

“Maybe for. … Yeah, I probably will. Might as well.”

• Kevin Druley is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinDruley.

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