The third quarter was an area of concern for St. Charles East's basketball team throughout the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic.
It turned into a nightmare Saturday night.
Utilizing its height advantage for inside baskets, Maine South (10-3) enjoyed a 33-11 third-quarter surge to break a 23-23 halftime deadlock on the way to an 80-67 fifth-place victory over the Saints (9-5) in Hinsdale.
Led by 6-foot-7 frontcourt players Grant Miller (18 points, 7 rebounds) and Tommy Gardiner (14 points, 7 rebounds), the Hawks went on a 7-0 run early in the third quarter to grab a 32-25 lead, then put the game out of reach following a 15-0 tear over the final 2:41 of the period.
While getting outrebounded 12-1 in the third quarter, the Saints also were besieged by foul trouble.
Officials whistled 11 fouls against the Saints in the first 6-plus minutes of the third quarter before the Hawks committed a single foul.
That led to Maine South's 13 third-quarter free throws (16 attempts).
"We got killed on the boards," said Saints coach Patrick Woods. "They have two 6-7 guys who are very good but I was a little disappointed with our want for the ball in the third quarter.
"We had troubles matching up with their size and we were in foul trouble. The bottom line is we gave up too many points in the third quarter and we got outrebounded. That can't happen regardless of the fouls."
Junior guard Essam Hamwi tallied 8 of his team-leading 27 points for the Hawks in the third quarter.
"We're a little undersized," said Saints senior forward Justin Hardy, who led all scorers with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. "They just kind of pounded it inside and foul trouble was big for us. They depleted our bigs quickly. We did as good we could with who we had."
Trailing by as many as 25 points at 61-36 midway through the fourth quarter, the Saints pieced together a spirited late rally.
Senior guard Zach Robinson (18 points) connected on three 3-pointers and Hardy added a 3-pointer of his own and a pair of free throws during the Saints' 16-2 run that whittled the deficit to 63-50 with 4:21 left.
The Saints pulled within 12 on 3 separate occasions but could draw no closer with the Hawks converting 16 fourth-quarter free throws.
Maine South, which attempted 45 free throws, outscored St. Charles East 32-4 at the foul line.
Nate Ortiz added 14 points for the Saints, who split their 4 tourney games.
"This was a great test for us," said Woods. "I thought we played 14 real good quarters and two quarters and those two bad ones cost us those games."
Named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year, Hardy set an individual tourney career mark with 223 points (previous record was 150 set by Stevenson's Justin Smith).
The Saints now prepare for a 3-game road trip against Batavia (Jan. 5), St. Charles North and Geneva.
"We'll be tested," said Woods.