St. Charles East handles Hoffman Estates
St. Charles East's reward for winning its regional opener Monday at the Class 4A Geneva regional?
A date Tuesday with two-time defending state champion Geneva who defeated the Saints by 24 and 17 points in two regular season meetings.
But that's fine with a St. Charles East team who was all smiles after a 60-47 win over Hoffman Estates.
"It's always nice to see the Saints fight to see another day," St. Charles East coach Aubree Schuett said. "We're looking forward to it. It will be great for the communities."
The No. 18 seeded Saints (6-23) led the entire way against No. 15 Hoffman Estates. Lexi Kiefer opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, Olivia Kiefer knocked down a baseline jumper and then scored inside on a pretty feed from Ashley DiOrio for a quick 7-2 lead.
While 6-foot-2 Olivia Wilson kept the Hawks in the game with 14 points and 6 rebounds in then first half, the Saints countered with pressure defense that forced 14 turnovers.
DiOrio scored on a steal and layup during a 10-4 run to close the first half. That stretch also included Torrie Kortan's 3-pointer, a jumper by Taylor Shead and a fastbreak layup from DiOrio for a 31-25 halftime lead.
In addition to Wilson, the Hawks also got the ball inside to 6-4 Berry Chukwuyem. Wilson finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Chukwuyem had 11 points and 7 boards.
"We knew that was going to be our advantage going in to try to get them touches and do some things," Hoffman Estates coach Mike Koester said. "I just thought offensively in that first half we were a little stagnant. They were able to double and triple the post a little bit and we didn't hit any shots today."
Hoffman Estates finished with just one 3-point basket to six for the Saints.
The Hawks pulled within 35-34 midway through the third quarter and grabbed a defensive rebound off Kortan's missed 3-pointer with a chance to take their first lead.
But Kortan alertly stepped in front of the outlet pass for a steal she converted into an easy lay-in. Makenna Brown followed with a basket to help the Saints stay ahead 44-40 going to the fourth quarter.
"I was kind of aggravated about missing that 3-pointer so I wanted another one," Kortan said. "I knew it would be a close game because they kept coming back. I knew I had to do something to get everyone to start getting their groove back."
Kortan nailed her third 3-pointer of the game with 4:35 remaining to open a 50-42 lead. The Hawks had to foul down the stretch, and St. Charles East responded by sinking 22 of 28 at the line to pull away.
"We shot really well from the free throw line and we got to the free throw line which is positive," Schuett said. "We knew our lineup would create some mismatches for them."
Kortan led the Saints with 16 points and 3 steals. Ashley DiOrio (13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) and Lexi Kiefer (12 points, 6 steals) also reached double figures while Madeline Hirata came off the bench to help Olivia Kiefer, DiOrio and the rest of the Saints battle Hoffman Estates' size inside.
Ana Sturgis added 6 points for the Hawks who finished the year at 10-20.
"We knew we had a lot of girls coming back with five seniors," Koester said. "We had some expectations to be a pretty good team for us. We had some ups and downs this year. Not the way you want to end it but we played pretty well."