Wheaton North stymies St. Charles North, ties for DuKane lead
Ella Kocher and Wheaton North held St. Charles North to five first-half points.
The Falcons forced seven turnovers, held the North Stars to 2-of-15 from the floor and in turn made 6-of-9 from beyond the arc all, in the first half.
That alone is a recipe to stop a 6-game winning streak.
"I thought we played a great first half. This is sort of what we've talked about all week: Just doing what we do," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said following Wheaton North's dominant 44-27 victory on Tuesday. "They did a great job sharing the basketball and I think that's the important part. We rebound really, really well. When we rebound well, I think our defense can get set."
Both North Stars (8-2, 7-2) losses have come against Wheaton North (9-2, 7-2) this season. The Falcons pulled even in the DuKane Conference race.
While swarming defensively, the Falcons -- through succinct ball movement -- have little problem finding scorers in a hurry. Claire Hyde and Caroline Gaither each hit a pair of 3s in the first quarter to set the tone.
But ask Falcons senior Kocher why their starting five is so difficult to guard, and that credit goes to the Falcons bench and role players.
"If I'm being honest, it's our second group in practice that makes us hard to guard," Kocher said following her 2-point, 6-rebound performance. "Because they guard us every day; they grind [and] play such good defense in practice, that our first group has no problem going up against the defense of the other team."
Hyde finished with 14 points while Gaither followed with 12 points -- all on 3s. Elle Hubbard battled foul trouble and had 6 points. The Falcons amassed 23 rebounds as a team with Kocher leading the way with her six. Julia Simon, one of the program's most prestigious defenders, had four in addition to Hyde.
"It's the little things," Kocher said of being active defensively. "The little tips and deflections, that'll win you a game; so sometimes it can go unnoticed, but it really makes a difference so it feels good."
The North Stars battled a bit back in the second half with a little surge from Talia Pellegrini, Erin Stack and Tatum Settelmyer combining for 10 third quarter points, but the collective first half struggles were too great to overcome. Stack finished with 11 for St. Charles North.
"This is our fifth year together as a coaching staff, and that's the worst first half that we've ever played together -- since we've been together and that's any combination of any players that we've had since we've been here," North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. "We love them to death. Sometimes, you have those nights, no doubt. You don't want to take anything away from Wheaton North. They play extremely hard [and] they shot the lights out at the beginning."
"A couple of those were contested too, so you credit them," Tomczak continued. "But, they certainly had a stronger desire ... If they missed a shot, they were going to run it down. Offensively, five points in a half is not going to get it done most nights. Of those five points, we were, I think, 1-of-6 in the first half from the free-throw line. And we missed seven or eight layups."
The North Stars are now left to pick up the pieces and re-establish themselves in the final five games remaining on the season.
"Today was definitely a really disappointing game for us," Pellegrini said. "We're just trying to look at it as how we respond to this and how we come back for the next game.
"We know we're better than this and that's why it's so disappointing. We're really just looking at it as: we need to step up and we need to get back and play our way again."