Following his team's frustrating 44-31 nonconference loss to Benet Academy Saturday night, St. Charles North basketball coach Tom Poulin expressed confidence in his experienced group.
"We'll see what we're made of," said Poulin. "I believe in these guys -- I have from day one. That hasn't changed."
Nearly 48 hours after one of the North Stars' worst offensive performances of the season, they showed some of the reasons behind Poulin's strong belief during Monday night's 61-51 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory over host Geneva (16-10, 6-4).
"It's never simple or easy to beat Geneva," said Poulin, whose squad dropped a heartbreaking 53-52 home-court decision to the Vikings on Feb. 2. "I think it was a simple fix for us though and it was playing team basketball.
"Even when we made mistakes, they were mistakes of trying to get the ball to a teammate or helping maybe when you didn't have to help defensively."
While snapping their 3-game losing streak, the North Stars received contributions from multiple sources.
Senior guard Zach Ludwig, who spent the majority of the night chasing Geneva junior guard Jack McDonald all over the court, scored a game-high 22 points -- 11 of which came in the first quarter when the North Stars (14-10, 7-3) grabbed a 20-10 lead.
"McDonald is a really good player -- he was tough to guard," said Ludwig, who connected on all 5 of his first-quarter field-goal attempts. "Coach (Poulin) wanted me to be aggressive this game the way they guard ball screens.
"I knew I had to set the tone offensively and get us going. Everyone else made it easier for me."
St. Charles North got off to a great start, taking a 15-2 lead midway through the opening quarter before Geneva fought back.
Mitch Mascari scored all 6 of his points during a 13-2 run that enabled the Vikings to grab a 23-22 lead with 4:33 left before halftime.
"We were down 15-2 and then I look up and we're up 23-22 -- it was just goofy," said Geneva coach Scott Hennig.
It turned out to be the Vikings' only lead of the night.
The North Stars retook the lead on Ludwig's 3-pointer from the corner before junior Tyler Nubin (6 points, 4 blocked shots) flashed his athleticism with a steal and emphatic right-handed dunk to go with a pair of late free throws that extended their halftime advantage to 29-23.
"That Nubin dunk was awesome -- I just didn't want to see it against us," said Hennig.
Geneva, led by McDonald (19 points, 3 steals), pulled within 2 briefly at 46-44 with 5:55 remaining but could never get over the hump.
Baskets from Kyle King (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Cade Callaghan (12 points, 3 steals), a steal and blocked shot by Erik Larson, and 5 late free throws from Ludwig helped preserve the North Stars' victory.
"It was a tough skid for us but we know what we're capable of," said Ludwig. "I think we'll be fine."