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Every basketball coach strives for balanced scoring.
One would be hard-pressed to find any more balance than St. Charles East exhibited during its Upstate Eight Conference River Division girls basketball clash with cross-town rival St. Charles North Saturday.
Five different Saints' players reached double figures as they held off the North Stars, 72-68.
"That's perfect -- that's what we need," said Saints coach Lori Drumtra. "We need everybody contributing so that other teams can't stop just one person."
Senior guard Amanda Hilton led the Saints (3-4, 2-0) with 18 points, including a pair of free throws that extended their lead to 69-62 with 42 seconds remaining.
"I think free throws did help a lot in us keeping a lead," said Hilton, who canned 7 of the Saints' 16 free throws. "The crowd was loud so it was tough for us to deal with. We've never had a problem like that before. It was amazing to play against North with such a great atmosphere."
Sophomore forward Hannah Vitkus scored 8 of her 10 points in the third quarter as the Saints' lead swelled to as many as 11 at 43-32.
However, the North Stars (2-5, 1-1) didn't go down without a fight.
Led by junior guard Sam Novak (game-high 20 points) and junior forward Nichole Davidson (17 points), St. Charles North trimmed an 8-point fourth-quarter deficit to 64-62 with 3:12 remaining on a Davidson runner in the lane.
A minute later, the North Stars missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have tied the game and the Saints countered with 5 straight points, including a crucial sequence fueled by the persistence of junior guard Katie Claussner.
Claussner, who finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, rebounded her own missed free throw and found junior forward Kyra Washington underneath for a layup that made it 67-62 with 1:05 left.
After Novak connected on a 3-pointer to pull the North Stars within 69-65 with 19.3 seconds remaining, junior forward Chloe John rebounded another missed free throw and Washington (12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocked shots) returned the favor with an assist on Claussner's layup that sealed the Saints' second conference victory in as many nights.
"Those 3s were killing us but those offensive rebounds saved us at the end," said Claussner. "This was a real big confidence booster for us."
Senior guard MacKenzie Meadows scored 10 of her 13 points in the first half as the Saints grabbed a 37-30 advantage.
"I thought that MacKenzie had a real nice game," said Drumtra. "She gave us a little bit of a spark off the bench at the beginning of the game when we were a little bit tight."
Morgan Rosencrants and Ashling Davern tallied 9 points apiece for the host North Stars, whose starting lineup included 3 juniors and a pair of sophomores.
"Our goal as a team is to only give up 48 points and we didn't do that," said North Stars coach Sean Masoncup. "The great thing about these kids is that they never give up. I thought we played hard.
"I keep stressing that we're so young," added Masoncup. "Some of our mistakes (21 turnovers) I attribute to being so young. We're going to get there. We're still learning our stuff. You've got to give it East. They made their free throws -- and free throws were a key to this game."
"I was real impressed with how North played," said Drumtra. "I told the girls this is a four-quarter game and that it's going to come down to the wire. I knew it would."