St. Charles North saw a lot of hopeful signs Saturday afternoon when it faced highly regarded Hope Academy from Chicago.
The biggest thing the North Stars could have hoped for, however, just slipped out of its grasp in the first round of the Jacobs Boys Holiday Basketball Classic at the Eagles' Nest in Algonquin.
The North Stars (3-7) were seconds away from a victory in regulation and inches from playing for another four minutes as they fell 68-65 in overtime to Hope (10-1).
"Right now it's awful to lose a game like that," said North Stars junior Quinten Payne, who scored a game-high 32 points in a matchup with Illinois Wolves AAU teammate and Illinois point guard recruit Jalen James. "It would be a lot easier coming out with a 'W.'
"We have to come out Monday (against Bartlett) and do the best we can. We should be really energized and the guys should be proud of what they did."
The Loyola-bound Payne turned his ninth rebound into a 3-point play and a 59-57 lead with 8.4 seconds left in regulation. But James, a 6-3 junior who scored 11 of his 21 points in the final 10:28, was fouled as he raced down for a tying baseline drive with three seconds left.
James missed the free throw as Hope finished just 20-for-38 as a team and the game went to overtime.
"Jalen is probably the No. 1 point guard in the state and maybe the country," Payne said of the battle faced primarily by teammate Michale Schroeder. "He's not an easy guy to guard."
A pair of pull-up jumpers by Tony Neari tied it at 63-63 with 1:34 left. William Ohlrich stole an inbound pass but a pair of missed free throws led to another James' drive.
"Payne is strong and fast and can finish at the basket," James said. "Coach (Mike Edwards) told me to keep going to the basket and that's what I kept on doing."
Payne hit 2 tying free throws with 40 seconds left and then dived for a loose ball to force a turnover. James intercepted an errant pass and missed a drive but Alex Houston scored off his own miss for a 67-65 lead with 15 seconds left.
Payne's pull-up 13-footer in the lane rimmed off with three seconds left and James hit the second of two free throws with one second to play.
"I should have knocked down the free throws," Payne said of a pair of misses a minute into overtime to finish 10-for-16 while shooting 11-for-20 from the field. "But the team did a great job of keeping us in it."
Especially with 6-8 senior Jack Nelson and 6-5 junior Kyle Swanson out for significant chunks of time with foul trouble before fouling out. Juniors Ryan Thomas (6 points, 6 rebounds) and Justin Stanko (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks) played major minutes off the bench and Nick Karayannis took some turns guarding James.
"I'm proud of the way we battled," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin. "We had great contributions off the bench and some of those guys had yet to be in that situation.
"We have to make sure we learn from this experience."