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There is no truth to the rumor that St. Charles North basketball coach Tom Poulin has a switch that he flips in the on position at halftime.
It only seems that way at times.
Trailing Elgin 30-15 at halftime after a lackluster opening 16 minutes, the North Stars (14-7, 8-3) went on a 20-1 run during the first 9-plus minutes of the second half and hung on for a 49-46 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory Tuesday night in St. Charles.
Senior guard Alec Goetz scored 13 of his game-high 27 points during the North Stars' 17-1 third-quarter surge that completely changed the course of the contest.
"As a group, we came out and played a lot harder and we played a lot more structured on defense," Goetz said of his team's second-half performance. "Coach Poulin said in the first half we were playing defense just to play defense but in the second half we were playing defense to win."
Elgin (9-15, 3-7) came out red-hot, hitting 6 of its first 7 shots while grabbing a 14-3 lead. All 5 starters -- Donte Harper, Desmond Sanders, Ryan Sitter, Lavion Baldwin and Kiko Mari -- scored baskets in the first 4 ½ minutes.
The Maroons continued to put the ball in the basket with regularity in the second quarter, building a 22-10 lead on a deep 3-pointer from sophomore reserve guard Desmond Douglas (9 points).
After Goetz connected on his third 3-pointer of the half to trim the deficit to 22-15 midway through the period, the Maroons closed out the half on an 8-0 run that included 3-point baskets from Sitter and Sanders.
Elgin shot 55 percent (6-for-11) from beyond the arc in the first half while committing just 2 turnovers and limiting the North Stars to 32 percent shooting (6-for-19) from the field.
"We were kind of going through the motions defensively and that allowed them to score and get open looks," said Poulin. "They got high-percentage shots and open looks and it allowed them to set their zone (defense).
"Offensively, we stood around," added the coach. "It looked like we were putting them through practice to get better at their zone."
Not many teams have tried to combat the North Stars' guard-oriented attack with a zone defense that Elgin employed Tuesday night.
"That's on me," said Poulin. "At this point of the season, we should see any defense and be able to execute. It looked as if we've never prepared against a zone so I've got to do a better job of teaching it. We have spent time preparing for zones but obviously not enough."
Junior guard Jake Ludwig added 10 of his 12 points in the second half, while the North Stars also received contributions from Jack Callaghan (3 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), Camden Cotter (3 points), Erik Miller (2 points, 5 rebounds) and Tyler DeMoss (2 points).
"In the second half, we started punching gaps, we started playing inside-out and the biggest difference was we got active and picked up the intensity on defense which led to offense," said Poulin.
Goetz's 3 free throws with 4:57 remaining snapped a 35-35 deadlock and put the North Stars ahead for good.
Elgin's last-second chance to tie the game ended when Douglas' 3-point attempt was swatted away by St. Charles North's Garrett Johnson.
"We came out ready to play to start the game and we didn't match their intensity in the second half so we leave with another loss," said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. "In the third quarter, we didn't take care of the ball (11 turnovers) and we were too tentative."
Sanders scored a team-high 14 points for Elgin, which played without senior Isaiah Butler (coach's decision).