St. Charles North clinches share of DuKane crown
Two weeks ago St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin sat down with his team and told them it's time to start making history.
The North Stars checked another box Friday night.
Sharing the ball on offense, locking down on defense and dominating the glass on both ends, the North Stars left Batavia with a 66-51 win -- earning them just their second conference championship.
St. Charles North (21-7, 12-1) clinched a share of the DuKane title and can claim it outright by winning its final league game Wednesday against the only team to beat them, Wheaton Warrenville South. The North Stars have a 1-game lead over St. Charles East.
"It's everything," Bradley-bound 6-foot-9 center Connor Linke said. "We want to leave a legacy for younger guys and people going through North."
The North Stars' only other conference crown came in 2012. They previously made history by becoming the first team to win 20 games in the regular season, and they are closing in on the 2009 squad's school-record 22 wins.
That's a lot of history -- just the way this group likes it.
"It means a lot to us especially this conference," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. "I don't care I'm biased but the DuKane Conference is as tough as anything out there. To win a conference championship in the DuKane Conference is outstanding. The guys are very excited."
Batavia (14-14, 4-9) took a few brief leads in the first quarter. Senior Jayden Johnson, an AAU teammate with Linke and North point guard Luke Scheffers, came out hot scoring 8 of his team-high 17 points in the opening quarter.
His second 3-pointer brought Batavia within 15-13, but Linke scored on a putback and Colin Nelson buried one of his four 3-pointers for a 20-13 lead after a quarter.
The North Stars did the same exact thing in closing the second quarter strong. Again Johnson nailed a 3 to bring the Bulldogs within 26-23 only to see St. Charles North score the final 8 points of the half for 34-23 halftime lead.
Batavia never got closer than 8 points in the second half or single digits in the fourth quarter. The North Stars constantly moved the ball to find open teammates, often passing up a good shot for a great one.
"You have to," Sheffers said. "It's not a one-on-one sport. There's five guys on the court. You have to like each other too. You have to be able to criticize, you have to be able to encourage. It's a team sport."
Linke turned in a dominating effort inside with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Nelson scored 14 points, Scheffers had 12 points, 4 assists and 3 steals, and Christian Czerniak added 5 assists.
"We have a lot of guys," Poulin said. "We don't just have a big man and a point guard. We can play unselfishly and really be effective. I loved Luke's energy on defense, I loved Connor's energy on the glass."
For Batavia, Ethan Ivan scored 10 points, Devin Cheaney had 9 points and 8 rebounds and Kyle Neibch scored 8 points. The North Stars outrebounded Batavia 34-20, committed only 4 turnovers until the final minute, and shot 52% from the field to Batavia's 40%.
"We have trouble stringing together consecutive stops," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "Until we do that we think we're OK just outscoring people. We're not. That's a hard way to live."