St. Charles East's boys basketball team appears to be heading into the postseason with momentum on its side.
Playing on his home court for the last time, 6-foot 5 forward Justin Hardy came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points with 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a pair of steals during the Saints' 61-47 nonconference victory over Foreman Friday night in St. Charles.
Hardy, a 4-year varsity player, found himself in the rare position as a reserve during the Saints' Senior Night -- with starting spots going to fellow seniors Mickey Babb, Alec Champine, Jude Clodi, Zac Matheny and Zach Robinson.
"This is an unusual Senior Night because in the past it a lot of time it has been a conference game and we would have gone with our regular lineup," said Saints coach Patrick Woods, who has guided his teams to 5 consecutive 18-win seasons.
"Tonight, we went with a senior lineup. I think those guys deserve it. I'm happy we did and I'm happy we won."
The Saints (18-9) jumped out to a 14-3 first-quarter lead as all 6 seniors made baskets, including 3-pointers from Clodi and Robinson.
However, Foreman (14-11) came back with 13 unanswered points to tie the score at 18-18 midway through the second quarter before the Saints closed out the half on a 9-4 surge to grab a 27-22 lead at the intermission.
Hardy delivered a pair of right-hand tomahawk dunks in the third quarter as the Saints opened a 48-39 lead.
"In the second half, we got loose in transition and we got some easy baskets," said Hardy. "It's fun playing that way. Everyone wants a breakaway dunk. It's a good team booster and fun for me."
After the Hornets cut the deficit to 3 at 48-45 early in the fourth quarter, the Saints sealed the victory with a 13-2 late run that included a pair of 3-point baskets by Clodi (12 points).
"We shot 50 percent from the field, we out-rebounded them and we had 20 assists," said Woods. "All in all, it was a great night."
Robinson finished with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists for the Saints, winners of 8 of their last 10.
"It means a lot to me here but more important is playing in front of all our fans," said Hardy, who scored 10 third-quarter points. "That's what I'm going to miss most about playing here and playing high school basketball -- the great atmosphere with my best friends cheering in the crowd."
"He has been a monster from start to finish," Woods said of Hardy. "He has made a huge impact on our program."
St. Charles East, which suffered a first-round loss to Bartlett a year ago, begins Class 4A regional tournament action against either Dundee-Crown or Hampshire Wednesday in Carpentersville.
"We have to be better on Wednesday," said Woods. "They're hungry. We don't want to have a repeat of what happened last year."
"We're right where we want to be," said Hardy. "Our guys are really motivated for this because we're not going out like that."