St. Charles rivals square off for DuKane lead

  • St. Charles North's Christian Czerniak celebrates with the Blue Fan Group after the North Stars beat crosstown rival St. Charles East in their first meeting in December. The rematch is Friday, and both teams are 9-1 playing for the DuKane Conference lead.

    St. Charles North's Christian Czerniak celebrates with the Blue Fan Group after the North Stars beat crosstown rival St. Charles East in their first meeting in December. The rematch is Friday, and both teams are 9-1 playing for the DuKane Conference lead. Mary Beth Nolan / Shaw Media Illinois

  • St. Charles East's Scott Breidigan deflects a pass by St. Charles North guard Luke Scheffers. The Saints' pressure defense will be a key factor Friday.

    St. Charles East's Scott Breidigan deflects a pass by St. Charles North guard Luke Scheffers. The Saints' pressure defense will be a key factor Friday. Mary Beth Nolan / Shaw Media Illinois

 
 
Updated 2/13/2020 10:25 PM

More than pride is on the line when St. Charles East tangles with host St. Charles North Friday.

The winner takes sole possession of first place in the DuKane Conference with three league games to play.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Whoever wins is certainly in the driver's seat," St. Charles East coach Pat Woods said.

St. Charles East (19-6, 9-1) seeks its first conference title since the 2014-15 season, when the Saints shared the Upstate Eight River championship with Geneva.

St. Charles North (18-6, 9-1) has not won conference since the North Stars shared a UEC River title with Elgin in 2011-12.

The DuKane co-leaders enjoy a 3-game lead on third-place Lake Park (19-6, 6-4).

"This isn't the decider, but it's a huge game," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. "We have to get this one if we want to win the conference, which was one of our goals. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a blast."

The North Stars won the first meeting 66-53 on Dec. 20. They led by 4-6 points most of the second half and pulled away late when 6-foot-10 center Connor Linke, limited by game-long foul trouble, returned in the fourth quarter.

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Linke and 6-5 forward Thomas Kellen were held to 6 points and 11 rebounds combined, but savvy senior guards Christian Czerniak and Luke Scheffers picked up the slack. Czerniak finished with 20 points. Scheffers, who averages 4.1 assists, contributed 18 points and 6 rebounds.

Woods said his team is much different from the one the North Stars faced in December, when the Saints were still going through a "growing/development phase," as he termed it this week.

They have developed into a team that plays 32 minutes of relentless pressure defense, using up to 12 players in constant rotation to stay fresh. They chase ballhandlers into multiple traps all over the floor and try to take teams out of whatever offense they intend to run.

Not fully in place when the rivals met on Dec. 20, the system has since helped the Saints become the area's hottest team. They enter Friday's rematch winners of 10 straight and 13 of 14.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think now we have a much better understanding and handle on what we're doing," Woods said. "We're playing a lot differently than the first time we played them. I'm curious to see how our style works with them."

St. Charles East tends to score in three ways. The Saints capitalize off turnovers in the transition game, point guard Luke Matheny penetrates and dishes to open 3-point shooters and they immediately counter made baskets by inbounding and advancing quickly up the court.

The scoring load is shared between seniors Chase Monkemeyer (13.1 ppg), Sean Sullivan (11.5), Thomas Ditsworth (10.2), Zack Clodi (7), Matheny (7 ppg, 2.5 apg) and Aidan Sullivan (5).

Monkemeyer and Sean Sullivan have combined to sink 77 3-pointers. Each shoots 38 percent from 3-point range.

"We have to limit open threes, we have to take care of the basketball and we have to get back in transition," Poulin said. "In the first quarter we need to establish who the better team is. That is the goal, to get after it right away because you know they are going to.

"I think Pat is doing an incredible job and the kids are executing the style of play they try to force on everybody. They are playing really, really well."

Ultimate bragging rights might not rest with Friday's winner. It is possible the rivals could meet for a third time next month in the IHSA Class 4A tournament. Both are assigned to the same nine-team subsectional within the McHenry sectional.

Cary-Grove and Elgin are regional hosts. If Cary-Grove (24-3) is voted the No. 1 subsectional seed next week, the Trojans would almost certainly stay at home and host the No. 4 seed.

In that scenario the Saints and North Stars most likely would be seeded Nos. 2-3, putting them on a collision course to meet in the Elgin regional title game if seeds hold.

"Regardless of what happens I think we see each other a third time in regionals," Woods said.

Record-setting Sabres: Streamwood broke the school record for 3-pointers in a game with 20 in an 82-47 win at West Chicago on Feb. 7.

Nine Sabres sank a 3-pointer, led by Larenzo Coney. The senior guard sank 5 shots from long range.

Senior Luke Pentecost and juniors Zach Marquez and Jakobe Strong each drained 3 shots from beyond the arc.

"We made 20 of 44," Streamwood coach Kent Payne said. "A bunch of guys made shots."

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