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The St. Charles North boys basketball team spent the first two quarters of its Upstate Eight River opener shooting over the Streamwood zone defense before taking a more direct approach to gain separation in a 45-36 road victory Thursday.
Four North Stars sank first-half 3-pointers over Streamwood's combination of 1-3-1 and 3-2 zone defenses, and reserve Ryan Thomas scored all 9 of his points in the second quarter to forge a 24-19 halftime lead. Though the 3-pointer was available for the taking throughout, bombing away from long distance is not the signature approach of these North Stars.
"With them in a 3-2 zone, they're just trying to get you to shoot threes, shoot threes," said St. Charles North senior guard Quinten Payne, who sank a pair of 3-pointers and scored a team-high 10 points to go with 7 rebounds. "But we got it inside a good amount and that's where a lot of our baskets came from. I thought that's what changed it for us in the third quarter."
Streamwood (3-3, 1-1) pulled within 24-21 on a Cole Seger basket early in the second half, but the North Stars (4-1, 1-0) began moving the ball and penetrating the zone with regularity to produce a game-defining 14-4 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters.
Junior guard Alec Gomez ignited the push with consecutive drives to the basket, 6-foot-6 senior Justin Stanko scored an inside bucket, 6-6 senior Kyle Swanson turned a steal into a breakaway layup and Payne drained his second 3-pointer of the game to put the North Stars ahead 34-23.
The third quarter ended with 2 Stanko free throws, and the fourth quarter opened with a driving layup from sophomore guard Jake Ludwig, staking the North Stars to a 38-25 lead.
"I thought we did a better job against their zone," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said of the second half. "We didn't take the first available perimeter shot. We tried to get interior touches. We're going to try to play inside out and go from there."
Two days after an inspiring victory over previously unbeaten Larkin, Streamwood failed to muster the same energy against another quality UEC River opponent. The Sabres (3-3, 1-1) were held to 8 points in the first quarter, 6 in the third. They shot 14 of 38 from the field (37 percent) and 1 of 9 from 3-point range against an alert man-to-man defense. St. Charles North won the rebounding battle 28-23.
"I was disappointed in the effort," Streamwood coach Tim Jones said. "I don't know if they thought they could just come on the floor and play, but in this division, in this conference, you have to play hard every night and you have to play tough. I thought for the most part we were all right, but we just didn't score. We have to do a better job defensively and we have to rebound the ball."
Streamwood senior center Zach Harris (6-9) led his team with 11 points and 8 rebounds, and 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior Vince Williams scored 10 points, all in the first half. No other Sabre managed more than 4 points.
"It was just a lack of energy the way we came out," Williams said of the second half. "They put way more pressure on me and I wasn't expecting it, so I wasn't getting the ball on offense. We need to work harder and come out with more energy and have fun out there. We have to try harder. They're a pretty good team, but everybody in this conference is beatable."
Gomez finished with 9 points, Swanson chipped in 7 and Stanko added 4 points and 7 rebounds as St. Charles North won for the fourth time in 5 games to open the season.
"It's definitely a promising start," Thomas said. "I haven't been on a team with this much chemistry before. We're together in everything we do. We've just got to keep it up."