A month can make the world of difference for a first-year coach teaching their system to a new team, which Aubree Schuett's St. Charles East Saints are showing.
After starting its Upstate Eight River schedule back on Dec. 1 by losing a 7-point fourth quarter lead in a 43-36 loss to rival St. Charles North, the Saints turned the tables on the North Stars Friday night.
The Saints forced 4 quick turnovers during a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter, quickly turning a 6-point deficit into a 6-point lead. Sara Rosenfeldt helped seal the comeback win with one offensive rebound after another, finishing with a 21-point, 19-rebound effort in St. Charles East's 51-43 victory.
"We've improved a ton," Rosenfeldt said. "We really wanted it bad and hopefully it keeps going and we keep improving. Our effort was 100 percent the whole game."
That effort came across most clearly on the glass where St. Charles East (9-9, 3-3) finished with a 39-24 advantage. Eighteen of those rebounds came on the offensive end.
Ashley DiOrio also was active with 8 rebounds, and three times Rosenfeldt snared an offensive rebound off a missed Saints free throw in the final two minutes to deny St. Charles North a chance to rally.
"We know we have to win the glass if we have a shot to win the game," Schuett said. "That was the key thing Sara brought to this game. Her offensive rebounding tonight in those crucial moments put us in position to win the game."
Sophomore guard Leilauni Chanthaboury got St. Charles North (11-9, 4-3) off to a good start with three 3-pointers in the first quarter. After Rosenfeldt hit a floater, Katernine Weinzirl's steal and pass ahead to DiOrio for a layup gave the Saints an early 6-2 lead.
The North Stars scored the final 11 points of the first quarter, sparked by Chanthaboury's shooting. The North Stars went cold in the second, making just 3 of 12 shots, to fall behind 21-19 at halftime.
Chanthaboury's fourth 3 put the North Stars back ahead 24-21 in the third quarter. The lead grew to as big as 30-22 on Anna Davern's basket and still stood at 35-29 going to the fourth.
After hitting just 11 of 45 shots in the first three quarters, the Saints made 5 of 8 in the fourth. They tied the game at 35 on a pair of Rosenfeldt free throws. St. Charles North turned the ball over, and Rosenfeldt scored on a conventional 3-point play to put the Saints ahead for good with 5:48 remaining.
Weinzirl stretched the lead with two 3-pointers in the final five minutes.
Six of North's 13 turnovers came in the fourth. Three starters -- Davern, Caroline Jakaitis and Megan Gunnink -- were playing with a stomach flu.
"I thought our third quarter was good and their fourth quarter was better," North coach Mike Tomczak said. "Fourth quarter we looked quite gassed.
"What we saw out there was nothing short of a heroic effort from Jakaitis, Gunnink and Davern. Those three gave everything they could. Viscously sick. We don't want to use it as an excuse but that's where we're at."
Davern battled for 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Chanthaboury finished with 14 points and 4 steals.
"We just ran out of gas and they were fighting for loose balls and offensive rebounds and we couldn't keep up," Chanthaboury said.
DiOrio joined Rosenfeldt in double figures with 11 points. Rose Stackhouse added 7 points for the steadily improving Saints.
"A month is a long time in a new system," Schuett said. "Everything was new. There was a lot of unknowns. We've come a really long way. This team is a different team than the team that played them early December. Just hoping to finish strong."