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St. Charles North delivered a haymaker in the form of a 12-0 run to open its Upstate Eight River contest Friday night at Geneva -- and held on to post a 53-50 victory despite not scoring a field goal in the fourth quarter.
The North Stars led from start to finish, even though the host Vikings pulled within 4 points on four different occasions and within 47-45 with just under two minutes left.
St. Charles North (16-8, 8-4) sank 8 of 9 free throws for its only points in the fourth quarter, but it was enough to hold off Geneva's last charge.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but the quick start was beneficial for us," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. "It gave us a little bit of a cushion because we knew Geneva would slow the game down and make runs."
The North Stars held off those runs behind balanced scoring as Alec Goetz led the way with 11 points, 9 coming on three-point shots, while Quentin Payne and Kyle Swanson each tallied 10.
St. Charles banged down eight 3-pointers in the contest, shooting over Geneva's box-and-one defense that had a defender chasing Payne all night.
The victory avenged a loss to Geneva (17-8, 6-6) earlier in the season when the shadowing of Payne paid off for the Vikings.
"We wanted to run our motion offense and move the basketball," Poulin said. "There is a lot of pressure on those four other guys to cover our four guys, and we had to keep them moving."
The North Stars had no problem moving in the opening minutes of the game as Payne hit two pull-up jumpers, and Swanson and Goetz each drilled a 3-pointer in the 12-0 blitz.
"We built that lead, and then Geneva tried to get more physical," Payne said. "But they got frustrated and tried to run through screens and I thought we did a really good job of keeping our composure."
Geneva was able to climb back into the game when Mike Trimble sank a 3-pointer and Connor Chapman (11 points) started pounding the ball inside. Chapman wasn't able to gain the full benefit of his drives to the hoop, as he failed to score a basket during that stretch and converted only 3 of 6 free throw attempts. But his efforts slowed the North Stars' momentum and kept Geneva within striking distance at 25-21 late in the second quarter.
In what would become a trend in the game, the North Stars were able to quickly build back leads when Geneva got close.
After a Chapman bank shot trimmed the North Stars' lead to 35-30 late in the third quarter, the North Stars quickly built their largest lead of the night at 45-32 as Goetz and Jack Callaghan tossed in 3-pointers, Payne hit two free throws and Ryan Thomas broke loose for an open layup on an inbounds play.
Geneva fought back in the fourth quarter, this time at the free-throw line. The Vikings made 7 of 8 to go along with a driving layup from Nate Navigato (game-high 12 points) to trim the lead to 45-43 with 2:33 left.
But Tony Neari sank four free throws around a Chapman bank shot, while Ludwig and Swanson added two each down the stretch to seal the win for the North Stars.
"They had eight 3-pointers and that made it tough for us defensively," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "But I thought our kids really battled hard tonight.
"If we had shot what we normally shoot from the free-throw line (Geneva made 23 of 31), we could have won this game," Ralston added.
St. Charles North enjoyed a 23-15 edge on the boards, as Justin Stanko had the game's highest total with only 4 rebounds.
Both teams took care of the ball well, with the North Stars committing 13 turnovers, while Geneva had only 12.
The teams play crossover Upstate Eight games next week as the final tuneup before the state tournament.