Perhaps it wasn't a work of art but St. Charles North boys basketball coach Tom Poulin will certainly take his team's 47-36 Class 4A regional semifinal victory over South Elgin Wednesday night.
"It's like I was saying to one the refs at one point, 'tournament games turn out to be ugly sometimes, especially regional games, because people know each other so well,'" said Poulin. "It's such a battle to get a good look."
Trailing 11-10 after a quarter, the North Stars (18-10) used bookend 3-point baskets from junior reserve Lucas Heflen while applying the clamps to the Storm (16-13) defensively during a 12-6 second-quarter run.
Heflen's 3-pointer accounted for the first points of the second stanza, giving the North Stars a 13-11 lead. The 6-foot-2 guard also drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 5 seconds remaining in the quarter to extend their lead to 22-17 at the half.
Senior guard Zach Ludwig tallied 8 of his team-high 13 points in the third quarter as the North Stars grabbed a 36-27 advantage.
"They switched from a zone back to man," said Ludwig, who attempted just 1 first-half shot. "We run a lot of ball screens so I just took advantage of them switching back to the man."
Ludwig added a game-high 7 assists and 4 rebounds.
"He has been playing very aggressively," said Poulin. "He has been doing a great job reading things off the ball screen. A lot of times, his reads are telling him to keep it."
The North Stars relied on its stubborn defense throughout against a Storm team that struggled from the field -- shooting 32 percent from the field (13 of 40) and 24 percent (4 of 17) from beyond the 3-point arc.
"I was really proud of our defense," said Poulin. "I thought we were prepared for what they did. We held them to 37 points. To do that to a varsity basketball team that won 16 games with a tough schedule is impressive."
Senior Noah Rohr paced the Storm with 15 points while junior Vincent Miszkiewicz added 9 points and 12 rebounds.
"It was a smaller version of the game at the Sears Centre (won by STC North, 60-47)," said Storm coach Brett Johnson. "I thought we really tested North in the first half and then we ran out of steam in terms of getting open looks."
South Elgin trailed 39-32 with 2:24 left before the North Stars sealed the decision with an 8-0 run that included a thunderous tomahawk dunk by junior Tyler Nubin in the final minute.
"It felt like more like 10 most of that second half," Johnson said of his team's deficit. "I needed some money to buy some buckets tonight."
Brendan Dal Degan had 12 points while Kyle King added 4 points and 11 rebounds for the North Stars, who face top-seeded Larkin in Friday night's regional championship.
"They are as good as it gets," said Poulin, whose team handed the Royals their lone conference loss on Feb. 16. "We need to play better than we did tonight to be champions."