St. Charles East clicks on both ends, beat Streamwood
Nate Ortiz led St. Charles East with 23 points in a 68-51 nonconference home win over Streamwood on Tuesday, but the senior took far more pride in his defense.
Saints coach Patrick Woods called the 6-foot-3 guard his best defender of the last two years. However, he initially did not assign Ortiz to cover Streamwood senior forward Keenon Cole, a silky smooth 6-7 forward who will play at Northern Illinois next year.
Cole, a strong perimeter player, went off for 11 points early, capped by a 3-pointer that kept Streamwood (2-4) within a point of the lead, 17-16, early in the second quarter.
Things changed once Woods sicced Ortiz on Cole. Streamwood's scoring leader was limited to 6 points over the final 23 minutes.
"I made it my mission to stop him," said Ortiz, who played with Cole for a brief time on a travel team when both were sophomores. "I love guarding players of a high caliber. It's been a thing I've had to do since my sophomore year when I guarded (Stevenson graduate) Justin Smith, who is going to Indiana now. I love the objective, the difficulty of guarding someone. It makes me better and it's something I value."
Cole, who blocked 5 shots and grabbed 7 rebounds, was limited to 3 baskets in 14 attempts over the final three quarters. Ortiz wasn't alone in defending the Streamwood standout, of course.
"I think we had guys helping better, which is what we practiced during the week," Woods said.
"Guys were stacked on my side so it was pretty hard to get to the hoop," said Cole, who led the Sabres with 17 points. "Their main plan was to stop me and Nikola (Sinik) and I think they did a good job of that."
Sinik contributed 15 points for Streamwood, including three 3-pointers, but St. Charles East (5-2) was the better team from the arc. Senior Mark Musial sank six 3-pointers and Ortiz made five more as the Saints drained 11 of 22 attempts from long range.
The Saints were particularly accurate in the third quarter, when they made 5 of 7 3-point attempts to win the quarter 23-7. Musial buried a 3-pointer off a steal with eight seconds left to stake St. Charles East to a 56-40 lead. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Sabres made only 3 of 16 third-quarter attempts, 1 of 8 from 3-point range.
"We went on a drought," Streamwood coach Kent Payne said. "They're a good team. They're going to hit shots. Over that three or four minutes they couldn't miss."
Senior Cody Mitchell finished with 15 points and 3 rebounds for St. Charles East, which returns to DuKane Conference play on Friday at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Streamwood, 1-0 in Upstate Eight Conference play, hosts league rival South Elgin on Saturday.