St. Charles North clears semifinal hurdle
Zone defenses frustrated the North Stars at times during the regular season.
It was a different story in Wednesday's 56-49 sectional semifinal win over Hononegah in McHenry.
St. Charles North built a 14-3 after a quarter and kept grinding away to advance one step deeper into the Class 4A state tournament than last year's team, which was stopped in a sectional semifinal by eventual state qualifier Rockford East.
"I like their start, especially against a team that zones," said St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin, whose team twice lost against Wheaton Warrenville South's zone defense. "We didn't take anybody for granted. We're just very confident that we were going to get to this point since day one. We wanted to come back and overcome that sectional semifinal loss last year. So we've done that."
St. Charles North (24-9), a No. 2 subsectional seed, will play No. 1 Cary-Grove (31-3) on Friday at 7 p.m.
The matchup pits 6-foot-9 Bradley-bound senior Connor Linke of St. Charles North against Cary-Grove 6-9 senior Frank Jakubicek, committed to Belmont.
"It's going to be a battle," said Linke, who finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds. "He's a great player. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm just really excited about it."
North got off to a hot start against a Hononegah zone that North senior guard Luke Scheffers described as "a packed 3-2."
Scheffers lobbed the ball to 6-foot-5 senior Thomas Kellen in the post for the opening basket. Kellen then scored on a putback, and senior guard Colin Nelson followed with a 3-pointer from the wing.
Hononegah coach Mike Miller called timeout down 7-1 to stop the momentum, but Linke scored in the post and added a putback. Sophomore Max Love came off the bench to bury a 3-pointer that put the North Stars ahead 14-3.
"Early buckets really helped us later on in the game," Kellen said.
Hononegah (15-20), which rarely had its lineup intact until late this season due to multiple injuries, won the second quarter 14-10 to stay within 24-17 at halftime and 34-25 through three quarters.
The Indians were able to draw within 6 points in the fourth quarter when junior Gabe Roessler scored on a putback.
However, the North Stars broke the ensuing press and got the ball to Linke for a near dunk and 3-point play. A Czerniak one-hander made it a 10-point lead with 3:45 to play.
Then came the foul parade. Four Indians fouled out as the North Stars sank 14 of 24 fourth-quarter free throws to maintain their distance.
"It was an ugly game but we knew it was going to be," said Poulin, who broke down 14 Hononegah game films, according to his players. "Very few tournament games are just blowouts where it's pretty basketball for long stretches. I just thought we had some nice stretches there of doing the right things on both ends."
Nelson scored 10 points for St. Charles North. Scheffers added 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Senior Isaiah Zawlocki led Hononegah with 17 points. Senior Chris Akelatis and junior Trent DeVries added 10 points apiece.