Even for a team that carries high hopes, the first half that St. Charles East's basketball team enjoyed in Monday night's season opener was through the roof.
The Saints (1-0) blistered the nets for 50 points in the first 16 minutes on the way to a convincing 76-46 victory over East Aurora (0-1) in the opening round of the 54th annual St. Charles East/Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament.
Junior guard Dom Adduci canned a pair of 3-pointers, while Purdue-bound Kendall Stephens added a long-range jumper of his own as the Saints went on a 15-0 run over the final 4:15 of the first quarter to take a 23-7 lead.
"They came out and played like they've been playing in this gym for a while," said Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries.
St. Charles East kept the momentum going throughout the second quarter as well, with Stephens nearly matching the Tomcats' entire offensive output (11) with 10 points while receiving plenty of support from teammates David Mason, AJ Washington, Jake Asquini, Cole Gentry and Adduci.
Stephens (2), Adduci, Asquini and Gentry each canned 3-pointers as the Saints went on a 27-11 surge while extending their halftime lead to 50-18.
"I thought we were real sharp in the first half," said Saints coach Patrick Woods. "Distributing the ball well, shooting and good, solid defense."
Adduci and Stephens combined for 26 first-half points -- 8 more than the Tomcats' entire total.
"We've got great team chemistry and I believe our team can definitely click," said Adduci, who hit 5 3-pointers while pouring in a game-high 21 points. "We can come out and hit people in the mouth. That's really a key for us -- to get out quick."
The Tomcats definitely felt it as well.
"It was a combination of two things," said Jeffries. "We gave them some open looks but then again when you have open looks like that they still have to knock them down.
"They shot lights out but we've got to play better defense. Everybody talks about (Kendall) Stephens but they had four different guys hitting 3s at halftime. They're big, they're long, and they share the ball as a team. They're a good basketball team."
Led by Jonathon Villezcas' 16 points, the Tomcats fought to within 60-39 with 6:09 remaining.
That's when Woods sent Adduci and Stephens back to the scorer's table, and a little more than 2 minutes later, the Saints' lead was back up to 29 at 68-39 thanks to Stephens' 3-point play and an Adduci 3-pointer.
Playing with a shoulder injury, Stephens, who sat out more than 6 minutes in the third quarter after an awkward landing during a loose ball scramble, added 14 points and 7 rebounds.
Playing in his first varsity game, 6-4 junior forward Washington had 8 points and a team-high 12 rebounds while 5-9 sophomore guard Gentry added 11 points.
"I was nervous at the beginning but I just came out and played," said Washington, who electrified the crowd early with a 2-hand jam off a feed from Adduci.
"The excitement plays are always fun with him," Woods said of Washington.
Mason chipped in with 6 points, Ben Skoog added 5 points and 6 boards, and the Saints' bench outscored East Aurora's reserves, 26-8.
"We have a lot of guys that can play," said Woods. "We don't lose a lot when we sub people in. I think we played 11 guys in the first half."