If you are a basketball player from St. Charles, where else better to be on your 18th birthday than in the middle of a St. Charles North-St. Charles East game?
That's where Erik Miller found himself Saturday night on his 18th birthday. Miller got just what he wanted, a 68-58 win for his North Stars in a game he chipped in 14 points, 6 rebounds and some of the physical play in a game St. Charles North dominated the backboards, 50-28.
"It was pretty physical, you could see some elbows, but you go into the game knowing that," Miller said. "St. Charles East-St. Charles North, it's always great intensity, great crowd."
St. Charles North (5-1, 2-0 UEC River) never trailed. St. Charles East (2-4, 0-2) started slow and never really got on track, trailing 10-8 after one quarter and 26-20 at halftime.
Saints senior Dom Adduci, fresh off a 33-point night Thursday at Larkin, was held to 2 points in the first half on 1-of-7 shooting against the North Stars' zone. He scored 19 in the second half to finish with 21 points, making 9 of 10 free throws.
"I think he just shot poorly," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. "We were fortunate he was off a little in the first half and then in the second he did a good job of just attacking."
Alec Goetz led the North Stars with 21 points, 18 coming in a second half that saw the North Stars get to the free-throw line 33 times.
"Rivalry game, best (32) minutes of my life right there," Goetz said. "We contained Dom which is important. Our zone helped, we moved the ball around on offense. I wish we would have made some more free throws. Pretty ridiculous."
The North Stars made just 2 of 7 from the line in the first half and then missed 11 more in the second.
The Saints got as close as 38-37 late in the third quarter on a lay-in by James McQuillan. Poulin called timeout, and Jack Callaghan found a cutting John Davern inside for a basket.
Jake Ludwig closed the quarter with a free throw for a 41-37 lead, then the North Stars broke open a tight game with a 13-2 run to start the fourth quarter. Goetz ignited it with a long 3-pointer, Miller also scored a pair of baskets in transition, and suddenly it was 54-39 with five minutes left.
Almost all the rest of the North Stars' 27-point fourth quarter came at the line -- they shot 18 of 26 in the fourth -- as the Saints kept fouling trying to get back in the game. They didn't get any closer than 62-53 on Cole Gentry's 5 straight points.
The Saints shot just 32 percent in the first half and 36 percent for the game (21 for 58).
"I thought we had a lot of people miss a lot of wide open looks," Saints coach Patrick Wood said. "I don't think it was shutdown defense. We didn't shoot well."
Davern gave the North Stars a lift in the first half with a pair of 3s. He finished with 9 points. Callaghan scored 5 and fought for 14 rebounds.
"We knew coming in we had to get boards to win the game," Miller said. "They have a lot of good shooters. We worked all week on getting boards in that zone. We take a lot of pride in our zone and it works."
The North Stars return to action Sunday against St. Patrick, an opponent Poulin described as similar to his squad. The teams played this summer and had an even matchup, and the coaches decided to add the game to the schedule.
St. Charles North also hopes to shoot a little better following its 60-percent night at the line and 40 percent from the field.
"If we shot free throws better and made a few layups it might have been a 20-point win," Poulin said. "I don't have a problem with it being physical this year. We have some horses. I thought the officials did a good job of enforcing the new rules but letting us play a little bit."
AJ Washington hit all 5 of his jump shots in the first half to keep the Saints close. He finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and Gentry scored 11.
"We're not playing our best basketball yet," Woods said. "It's a long time until March. We're going to get it right. We just have work to do."