Batavia starts fast, tops St. Charles North for regional title
Claire Nazos was the first Batavia senior to have the celebratory basketball net draped around her neck.
Eventually, as the jubilant vibes following Batavia's 50-34 victory over St. Charles North in the Class 4A Addison Trail regional final wafted through the Bulldogs celebration, the plaque and net made its way around for pictures and memories they won't soon forget.
Batavia had just won its first regional title since 2016.
"It is so amazing. As a freshman, this is what we've dreamed of every year," said senior Tessa Towers with the net draped around her and in between smiles for pictures. "Seeing it's my senior year [and] actually coming to life. My junior year, we could've had a chance [if there was a postseason]. This year, in this time, this moment to get this regional championship and get this plaque is just amazing.
Towers, a 6-foot-5 Wisconsin recruit, was without a rebound until 7:17 in the third quarter and had her third foul with 3:04 left in the first half. But Batavia's building block since her freshman season battled through it to score 16 points.
"[It's] giving me goose bumps on my body," Towers said. "It's just unbelievable we can make it this far and we can go even farther now."
Batavia (19-14) will face DuKane Conference rival Wheaton North, who they split two games with during the season, in a sectional semifinal on 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bartlett.
St. Charles North had a brief 17-16 lead with 2:53 remaining in the first half, but Addi Lowe's layup, followed by a Brooke Carlson 3-pointer jump-started the end of half run for Batavia. Lowe then had another three to close out the 8-0 run with Towers on the sideline.
"[That sequence was] so important," said Carlson, who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. "It kept our energy up. We kind of got down a little bit when [Towers] got her third, but it kept the energy going and it was just amazing."
Batavia then ripped off an 8-1 run to open the third quarter to spark an eventual 18-point lead to close the quarter.
The North Stars pulled within 12 with under three minutes to go, but free throws and tempo control from the Bulldogs -- along with forcing 13 total turnovers on the evening -- led to their ultimate destiny.
Lowe had seven points, while Nicole McLaughlin had four points and five rebounds to round out Batavia.
"As important as that was when we got the points [to close the first half], everything tonight was about how good we were defensively," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "I think [St. Charles North is] incredibly talented ...[Alyssa] Hughes torched last time with 30 [points] ... everything that we did in totality started and ended with how good were defensively. I think we were very well prepared."
St. Charles North (18-13) was led by senior forward Erin Stack's 16 points and eight rebounds in her curtain call on a stellar career.
With approximately a minute left in the contest, Stack exited the court for the final time giving hugs down the bench line.
"It's like every time I think I'm fine, it comes back and like 'wow, that was my last high school game ever," Stack said. "Especially with this team, everyone cares about each other so much. Same thing as senior night: You see everyone in the line crying and 'I'm going to miss you'."
Before entering the locker room for their final postgame wrap-up speeches, North Stars coach Mike Tomczak stood in the nearby stairwell with his coaching staff. He looked up and said "Guys, I'm so proud of our girls."
"There was not a single player that played in that game that didn't give it everything she possibly had tonight," Tomczak said. "Seniors, freshmen, whatever the case may be. Everybody gave us everything they had. It didn't go our way tonight. I thought we got beat by a real good team. Some shots we normally hit, didn't go down; some free throws we normally hit didn't down."
Sophomore Reagan Sipla returned for her first game action since sustaining a knee injury on Jan. 29 and produced seven points. Junior guard Alyssa Hughes had four points and Katrina Stack and Eva Saltsman each had three points each.
Though, the perspective that rang through prominently was where the team was at the Christmas holiday break.
"We were 8-8. Dead in the water, couldn't make layups," Tomczak said. "And, for us to respond the way we did with the adversity we faced this year [with a short rotation due to injuries] I'm just so proud of those girls and I'm going to miss those seniors a whole heck of a lot.