Winning back-to-back basketball games on the road is no small task.
About 24 hours after scoring an impressive Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory at Geneva, St. Charles North accomplished the weekend sweep with a hard-fought 75-64 triumph over host East Aurora (5-11) Saturday night in UEC crossover action.
"We said on Wednesday that the weekend challenge is a serious one -- Geneva at their place and East Aurora at their place," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin. "I'm proud of them for coming through."
The North Stars (9-5) grabbed a 28-18 lead early in the second quarter on a turn-around jumper by Garrett Johnson (6 points) before the Tomcats went on an 11-1 run to tie the game at 29-29 with 47 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Junior Jack Callaghan (15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) buried a mid-range jumper with 2 seconds left in the second quarter to give St. Charles North the lead for good at 31-29 at the intermission.
It wasn't the only time the North Stars beat the buzzer.
Senior guard Alec Goetz drained a 3-pointer off a feed from Callaghan with 9 seconds left in the first quarter, while Callaghan knocked down a shot with 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter that extended the North Stars' lead to 49-40.
"I just like that they're aware of East Aurora switching to a zone at the end of the quarter," said Poulin. "We've got multiple options at the end of quarters. This team does a very good job of taking what the defense gives them. Tonight, it was Jack (Callaghan) coming through at the end of a couple quarters."
Callaghan began the fourth quarter with a 3-point play to make it 52-40, and the North Stars maintained a double-digit lead until Tomcats guard Petey Davis (24 points) connected on the fifth of his six 3-pointers to make it an 8-point game at 61-53 with 3:31 remaining.
St. Charles North wasn't about to relinquish its lead, however, making 14 of 16 free throws over the final 3:04. The North Stars converted 17 of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter and shot 25-for-31 (81 percent) for the contest.
"Jake (Ludwig) and Alec (Goetz) are both 80 percent (free-throw) shooters," said Poulin. "That's nice when your two primary ball-handlers shoot like that at the line."
Goetz, who finished with a game-high 30 points, enjoyed a perfect 12-for-12 night at the free-throw line -- 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter.
"We really had to hit our free throws," said Goetz. "I practice free throws quite a bit."
Ludwig added 12 points for the North Stars, who face Bartlett Tuesday night.
"We've got another challenge next week," said Poulin. "We've got three games and it's finals week."
Adrian Smith came off the bench to score 11 points for East Aurora, which shot 41 percent from beyond the arc (11-for-27).
"They're very dangerous and they're tough at home," Poulin said of the Tomcats. "I think we did just enough to win."
"We played a very good basketball game tonight and we lost to a very good basketball team," said Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries. "Unfortunately we've got to measure our improvement in a loss. I felt like they won the game more than us losing the game."