A quality of a good basketball team is the ability to win when things aren't necessarily going your way.
On a night where the 3-pointers weren't dropping with any regularity and shooting in general was a bit off, St. Charles East's girls basketball team kicked in another phase of its game during Monday's Class 4A regional tournament opener against Lake Park.
Clinging to a 26-21 halftime advantage, the Saints (17-11) turned up their full-court defensive pressure and forced 14 third-quarter turnovers during a 23-13 surge that helped extend the lead to 49-34.
From there, St. Charles East put the game away with 10 fourth-quarter free throws during their 67-49 victory over the Lancers (1-27).
"Our shots weren't falling so we turned to our transition offense," said sophomore guard Katie Claussner, who poured in a game-high 22 points, including 9 in the decisive third quarter. "We got our layups -- that's how we won."
Lake Park, which never led, whittled the deficit to 26-23 on a driving layup by Emily Duckhorn (14 points) during its opening possession of the second half.
That's when the Saints unleashed its defensive pressure, going on a 16-0 run over the next 3 ½ minutes to build a 42-23 lead midway through the third quarter.
First, Claussner played the passing lane and made a steal near midcourt that resulted in a layup. Then, junior forward Hannah Nowling intercepted a pass and found junior guard Amanda Hilton (11 points) for a 3-point play.
Carly Pottle (11 points, 7 steals), Hilton, and Laney Deckrow all followed with easy baskets off turnovers in a 33-second stretch that extended the Saints' lead to double digits and pretty much ended the Lancers' upset hopes.
"The press helped us," said Saints coach Lori Drumtra. "We're at our best and our shooting seems to be better when we can get that transition game going."
The 11th-seeded Saints shot 33 percent from the field (21 of 64) -- including 2-for-18 from beyond the 3-point arc -- but found a way to win.
"All teams, from the pros down to high school, have off-nights," said Drumtra, whose team will face fifth-seeded Batavia for a third time in tonight's semifinals. "This was a very mediocre night. But we got through it, and I'm kind of glad we played a game tonight."
Sam Cummings had 12 points and 17 rebounds, while Tyshai Freeman added 11 points and 8 boards for the Lancers.
"Obviously it has been a trying season for us but one thing I can say about these kids is that they never gave up," said Lake Park coach Andrea Miller.
"Their pressure got to us," admitted Miller, whose team committed 32 turnovers. "It has been our Achilles' heel all year."