St. Charles East responds, beats Lake Park
Life in the DuKane Conference has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for local basketball teams, and Saturday night was no different in St. Charles.
A night after dropping an 8-point road loss to Wheaton North, St. Charles East (11-8, 4-3) responded with one of its best efforts of the season during its 67-54 victory over visiting Lake Park (12-6, 3-4).
"It's a tough conference -- I feel like it's the Big Ten a little bit with a lot of teams beating each other and the fact that you're playing back-to-backs against good teams," said Saints coach Patrick Woods, whose team jumped out to a 17-7 first-quarter lead against the Lancers.
"We really focused on playing hard tonight and getting loose balls and rebounds. I thought our effort was a lot better tonight."
Senior forward Cody Mitchell scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Saints pulled away down the stretch.
"Coach Woods had an extended talk with us yesterday about late lapses and what we need to fix that," said Mitchell, who added 9 rebounds while shooting 12 of 16 from the field. "We talked a lot about being aggressive and playing like we did in the past.
"I've been in kind of a scoring slump and it has been affecting my play overall. I just decided to keep my aggression and play as hard as I can."
Mitchell had plenty of help from his teammates, as senior Mark Musial responded with instant offense off the bench with 18 points while fellow senior Nate Ortiz added all 9 of his points in the second half.
Regarded as one of the Saints' best outside shooters, Musial broke out of his offensive slump in a big way.
The 6-foot-5 forward knocked down his first two 3-point attempts in the opening quarter and finished 7 of 10 from the field with four 3-point baskets.
"In basketball, you're going to have slumps -- it's just a part of the game," said Musial. "I feel it's important to have these games to get out of it. Games like this kind of get you going again."
Musial admittedly tried not to overthink things the past few weeks.
"Mentally, you're trying to do so much and there's so many things to remember," he said. "When you play your best is when you're not thinking as much. That's what I tried to do tonight."
After the Lancers cut the deficit to 48-42 on a basket by Montrell Perry (14 points) early in the fourth quarter, the Saints sealed the deal with a 13-4 run that was ignited by Musial's 3-pointer and driving layup.
"He has been up and down as well as many others," said Woods. "Fortunately, we have multiple people who can step up. When we all get going in the same direction, we can be pretty tough but we're kind of running out of time here so that has to happen soon."
Junior forward Trevor Montiel scored 19 points for the Lancers, who snapped Geneva's 15-game winning streak Friday night.
"We told our guys they (Saints) don't want to be swept on the weekend," said Lancers coach Billy Pitcher. "They certainly came out hungrier than we did.
"We battled back and got it (deficit) to five a couple times in the third quarter but we couldn't string the stops together."