The St. Charles North boys basketball team made sure Tuesday's Class 4A regional play-in game against host South Elgin was suspense free.
The North Stars used full-court pressure from the start to frustrate and confuse young South Elgin and cruised to a 73-52 victory.
No. 3 St. Charles North's pressure defense translated to a 20-4 opening run, and No. 6 South Elgin (5-23) was unable to draw within 10 points of the lead thereafter.
"That's what our goal was," said North Stars senior Quinten Payne, who scored 15 points. "They're more of a methodical, slow-it-down team. They try to grind it out on you like Geneva. So our big thing was pressure, pressure, pressure because they're young. We tried to get a lot of traps on them and get runs. That's our team thing: get up shots quick, press and get up and down.
"I thought we did a great job and we defended well. It was a great team win."
The St. Charles North (17-10) victory sets up a regional semifinal clash against rival St. Charles East (15-11) today at 7:30 p.m. The Saints have won 2 of the 3 meetings this season, though the North Stars won the most recent matchup 62-49 on Feb. 2.
"It's a great atmosphere and a great experience for everybody involved," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said of the pairing. "It's proven to be a great matchup, so I think it'll be one everybody remembers."
South Elgin freshmen Matt Smith and Justin Howard scored 6 straight points at the end the first quarter to give the Storm hope, down 20-10, but the North Stars never let their guard down fully. They outscored South Elgin 18-10 in the second quarter to take a 38-20 halftime lead, then put the game out of reach with a 19-11 advantage in the third period.
Physically, the Storm were unable to match the more mature North Stars, who won the rebounding battle 24-12.
"When you have three freshmen on the floor, they're going to take it to you," South Elgin coach Chaz Taft said. "You see some strides, but once somebody gets real physical with a younger kid, he just kind of goes back into his shell. You can't teach them, you just have to throw them out there and hope they fight back. Tonight we didn't fight back. We just let it happen and that was it."
St. Charles North was led offensively by 6-foot-6 senior Justin Stanko, who scored 17 points to top his previous career high of 11. Stanko was a key to North's quick start, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter.
"Every game that we do that it just brings more motivation to the bench," Stanko said of the opening run. "Then the players that come in have more motivation because it replicates to the bench. Coach said in the locker room to go out and play 100 percent, and that's what we did as a team. We went out and played as hard as we could and I think it showed."
Junior Erik Miller scored 8 points and junior guard Alec Goetz added 7 points and 3 rebounds for the North Stars.
Smith led South Elgin with 19 points, 12 in the fourth quarter.