PONTIAC -- It was a 7-point spurt the St. Charles North boys basketball needed to thwart the near-second-half lead Bloomington enjoyed.
The North Stars, making their third appearance at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, had a variety of players rise to the occasion in their 73-69 victory over Bloomington Thursday in opening-round action.
St. Charles North (7-3) will face four-time defending Class 4A state champion Simeon in the first quarterfinal Friday morning.
Jack Callaghan, the North Stars' floor general, had struggled all day with foul trouble.
But the forward converted a pair of free throws to give St. Charles North the lead for good at 58-57.
Garrett Johnson rebounded his own miss and completed the North Stars' 3-point play to give St. Charles North a 61-57 lead with three minutes and 27 seconds to play.
Jake Ludwig and backcourt mate Alec Goetz combined for 18 free throws for St. Charles North; the former hit 3 of 4 with: 56 left.
But the senior guard saved his defining moment for the following possession, converting yet another 3-point play for the North Stars to give the team a 71-64 lead with 37 seconds remaining.
'We were trying to run some clock," said Ludwig, who finished with a team-high 20 points. "I saw a lane and took it. I took the 'and-one,' and we took the 'W.' It was a good win for us."
But there was still some drama to unfold until the North Stars could savor the victory.
Due to missed free throws and a pair of lane violations on made conversions from the line, St. Charles North left the door open for Bloomington (6-4).
Antonio Sims was terrific all game for the Raiders, scoring a game-high 26 points on a variety of dribble drives and perimeter field goals.
"We couldn't keep him in front of us," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. "He played a heck of a game."
Sims' 3-pointer negated the Ludwig 3-point play to bring Bloomington to within 71-67, and the Raiders had a chance to tie following the pair of St. Charles North mental mistakes at the free-throw line.
But their long-range 3-pointer, with the North Stars clinging to a 72-69 lead, failed badly in the final 10 seconds.
Callaghan accounted for the final score with one of two at the line with 5.2 seconds to play.
"It was a game against two evenly matched teams," Poulin said.
Goetz scored 15 of his 17 points in the opening half as the North Stars and Raiders were engaged in a series of exchanged runs.
Goetz scored the North Stars' final 6 points of the second quarter to bring St. Charles North to within 35-34 at the break.
"The ball just happened to be in their hands," Goetz said of Ludwig and Callaghan, who scored all 10 of his points after the intermission.
Johnson was the fourth North Star in double figures with 11 points.
"We knew that their guards were really good," Bloomington coach Michael Mosley said. "(The guards) made their bigs look good."