St. Charles East tunes up for regionals with win
The Foreman gym is an old-fashioned, pre-World War II relic housed on the second floor of the Chicago Public League school on the city's northwest side.
The dimensions are tight and the atmosphere is loud and forbidding for the visitors.
Nate Ortiz made it comfortable and deeply personal, turning the game into his own private living space.
Ortiz ignited an electric shooting night by St. Charles East in scoring 11 first quarter points that powered the Saints' 80-48 victory in the regular-season finale Friday night.
Ortiz finished with a game-high 20 points. He drilled 3 of the Saints' 11 3-pointers as St. Charles East scored the opening 9 points and never looked back.
Behind his hot hand, the Saints bolted to a 19-6 first quarter lead. His smoldering shooting proved contagious.
"You could not have asked for a better end," Ortiz said. "We have won 5 out of our last 6. We have the momentum right now. This was a great experience to focus on ourselves and also have that humble experience in realizing, compared to these kids from Foreman, we come from an area that is a lot easier."
Foreman had a powerhouse program a decade ago with Division I guards Michael McCall and Lavonte Dority. Coach Brian Rose is trying to resurrect the Hornets' proud tradition.
Rose is a former assistant to St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods when the two coached at Ridgewood in nearby Norridge.
The game marked the 4th consecutive year the Saints have traveled here to play the Hornets.
"It's a great opportunity for us to come and play against different competition," Woods said. "I thought we came out focused. We shot well. We set the table for next week. We played hard, executed and ran out stuff."
Twelve different players scored for the Saints (18-13).
Ortiz and forward Jake Champine fueled the hot start, combing for 17 of the Saints' 21 1st quarter points.
St. Charles East effectively put the game out of reach with a scintillating 11-0 run to open the second quarter as forward Cody Mitchell nailed consecutive 3-pointers.
St. Charles East converted 5 shots from distance in the corner to expand its lead to 44-17 at halftime.
"We had things clicking," Mitchell said. He contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
"We had a chance to get some of others guys into the game. This is how we wanted to end the year. Now we just have to continue playing hard."
Champine contributed two 3-pointers and added 11 points. Mark Musial contributed nine points.
Reserve forward Chase Monkemeyer triggered a running clock in the 4th quarter by nailing a 3 from the right wing.
Jashawn Covington scored 19 points to lead the Hornets (11-16).
St. Charles East hosts its own Class 4A regional Tuesday against the winner of Monday's play-in game involving Huntley and Larkin.
"We are pretty optimistic," Ortiz said. "We are a young team, but we are confident. We have polished a lot of things that we were struggling with earlier in the year. We a very close knit team.
"I feel like we have come a long way."