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If the IHSA ever decides to add a free-throw shooting contest to its state tournament, count Alex Silverman and St. Charles North ready.
Silverman hit the go-ahead 3-pointer, then she and the rest of the No. 17 seed North Stars salted away the game by hitting 16 of 22 free throws in the fourth quarter to beat No. 16 Glenbard West 52-45 in Monday's first-round action of the Class 4A Wheaton Warrenville South regional.
St. Charles North's last 13 points came at the free-throw line, 6 from senior guard Silverman.
"We've been practicing a lot of free throws," said Silverman, who scored 14 points and was 8 of 10 from the line in the final quarter. "We practice when we're tired and running sprints so we can hit them in the fourth quarter."
St. Charles North (9-19) led 13-8 after a quarter, 23-22 at half and 31-29 after three quarters. Caitlin Soane's turnaround jumper on Glenbard West's first possession of the final quarter tied it, but Silverman answered with the North Stars' fifth 3.
A tightly called contest was indeed a free-throw coach's delight.
The two teams combined to attempt 56, but it was a tale of two halves. Glenbard West (11-17) made 12 of 14 in the first half, St. Charles North turning the tables by shooting 24 of its 32 in the second half, making 24 for the game.
"It didn't seem like we were shooting any free throws in the first half," North Stars coach Colleen Backer said. "We made some minor adjustments. There was a lot of contact in that game."
Two Silverman free throws gave St. Charles North a seemingly comfortable 44-35 lead with 3:51 left, but Glenbard West surged within 3 on Soane's dribble drive and score. The Hilltoppers had the ball down 3 with a 3-point shot for the tie, but missed it.
Soane, whose next stop is Loyola University, scored 16 points with 10 rebounds and 5 blocks and fellow senior Breanna Venson 19 points and 10 rebounds in her final game. The Hilltoppers hurt themselves by missing their first 13 shots.
"We said at halftime that if half those shots go in, we're up 10," Glenbard West coach Mike Hofland said. "We just never got in a rhythm. We missed some good shots. They just didn't fall."
It was a trying season for Hofland and the Hilltoppers, beset by injuries early on.
"It's been a rough year with all the injuries and inconsistency," Hofland said, "but the one thing I can say is no matter the score the kids always played hard. That's what I will remember most."
Sophomore Nicole Davidsen scored 9 points, all in the second half, with 7 rebounds and freshman Morgan Rosencrants had 8 points and 6 rebounds for St. Charles North, which advances to play top seed WW South tonight. The North Stars lost to the Tigers 62-40 in December.
"That was a rough game. They beat us real bad," Silverman said. "We can't think about that. It's a new game tomorrow. We want to make a run in regionals."
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96