Just under two weeks between games looked like it was going to be too much for St. Charles North. While the North Stars were leading by 11 at the half, they struggled to hang onto the ball in the second half, turning it over a total of 12 times and almost let the game go as well.
But a big fourth quarter from junior Jake Ludwig shut the door on an Elgin comeback and gave the North Stars a much needed win in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, defeating the Maroons 70-61 Thursday night at Elgin's Chesbrough Field House.
"All of us were just trying to get back to game speed in the first half because we've been off so long," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. "I thought we didn't play very well defensively. Our rotations were a step or two late, we weren't forcing the ball to go where we wanted it to. Elgin just attacked us off the dribble."
Luckily for the North Stars (12-6, 6-2), Elgin could not get its shots to fall early in the game, shooting just 31 percent from the field and hitting only 4 of the 13 3-point attempts it took.
Jack Callaghan finished with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds, for St. Charles North, while Ludwig had 16 points on the night, with 9 coming in the fourth quarter including a 5-for-5 showing at the free-throw line to ice the game down the stretch.
It also helped to have senior guard Alec Goetz on the floor. Finishing the game with 20 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds, Goetz was by far the most consistent scorer on the night. With four 5-point quarters, hitting a 3-pointer and 2 free-throws each time, Goetz was able to keep the runs that Elgin did manage to a minimum.
Isaiah Butler, 23 points on the night, was able to break the collective funk of the Maroons in the second quarter, scoring 12 and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to swing the momentum back to his team, which carried over into the third, scoring 24 as a team and taking the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game.
"You give him any sort of crease, any sort of gap at all he's going to take it and he's going to let it go and more often than not it's going in," Poulin said of Butler. "He's impressive. We've faced teams with shooters before and we faced teams with multiple shooters before and we've done a much better job defending shooters, we just need to get back to defending with some intensity."
Butler had a good feeling going into the game, but the senior guard also knew that intensity level from his team was not where it needed to be after two days off due to bad weather.
"I was feeling it, but we didn't play hard enough to get the win," Butler said. "We didn't play hard from the start, and going into halftime we said we needed to pick up the intensity. We did a little bit, but it all started at the beginning, from practice (Wednesday). It wasn't a good practice."
It was in the fourth quarter that a night of poor shooting finally caught up to the Maroons (7-13, 3-5) as they hit just 4 of the 11 shots they took while St. Charles North missed just two.
"In the fourth quarter we did a little more standing around than we did earlier in the game," Maroons coach Mike Sitter said." Our athleticism kind of got us back in the game, but overall our effort was much better in the second half. We can compete with anybody if we bring our A-game."
Desmond Sanders (12 points) and Lavian Baldwin (10 points) were a big reason that Elgin was able to take back the lead in the third, combining for 15 points in the quarter.
"We need to get better defensively. You're not going to win a lot of basketball games by giving up 70 points, but the effort was there," Sitter said.
Both teams have big River Division games on Saturday to look forward to now. Elgin will face off against Streamwood at home while the North Stars host River Division leader Larkin for what Poulin hopes is a payback game for a loss on the road earlier this year.
"It's a big game for us. They're a state-ranked team and we feel like we can compete against state-ranked teams. It's time for us to go out and walk the walk."