Hughes, St. Charles North shoot past Lake Zurich
Alyssa Hughes' recent hot shooting streak can coax a slight smile out of her, but its roots trace back to work she does in the days in leading up to each game.
Hughes, the St. Charles North senior guard and Washington University St. Louis commit, scored in 23 points and had four 3-pointers in the North Stars' dominant 52-30 victory over Lake Zurich on Monday at the Batavia MLK Tournament.
St. Charles North (17-4) won its seventh consecutive game and forced 24 Lake Zurich (17-4) turnovers.
A recent picture tweeted from the St. Charles North girls basketball Twitter account perhaps is the best encapsulation for Hughes' offensive tear: constant 3-point attempts in shootarounds.
It's producing obvious results for the four-year varsity starter.
"I think it's honestly getting into the gym and getting shots up," Hughes said. "We have shootarounds before practice every single day. Reagan [Sipla] and I [as partners] do shooting, just working to make each other better. We push each other to be better and I think that's what helps us shoot so well: we always have that other person pushing in practice."
In the last week against Rockford Auburn, Batavia and Lake Zurich, Hughes has averaged 21 points per game with a pair of 23-point performances. On Monday, Hughes hit deep 3s to close the second and third quarters to give the North Stars a boost.
Entering the fourth quarter up 37-26, North Stars guard Julia Larson hit two free throws to begin an 11-0 run, which was highlighted by three 3-pointers by Sipla, to help pull away comfortably.
"[Hughes] is on a heater right now," North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. "It's kind of picking up from last year, but she just plays with so much confidence. Her team believes in her and her coaching staff believes in her. When you have a kid who has a family full of people that believe in you, I really think you can do some special things. We have a lot of girls that feel that way. Reagan is the same way.
"Reagan struggled through that first half, but in that third and fourth quarter, white hot. Unbelievable shots and she's able to get deflections [defensively] on basketballs. But, as far as Alyssa goes, we believe in her completely. The work she puts in off the court really manifests itself onto the court and we're lucky to have her."
The North Stars' guard-pressure defensive system continues to produce the results that worked so effectively for Wheaton North, the program the North Stars adopted it from, for the last number of seasons. Monday was just another recent example why, including forcing four Lake Zurich 10-second violations for not getting the ball over the center court line in time.
" ... Anytime you do something, you really want results so the kids can really buy in," Tomczak said. "We were fortunate in the summer. The cool thing about this defense is: It's getting better. As we've been seeing teams the second time through, we're able to put pressure [and] there's some tweaks we can make. But, that's [Lake Zurich] as disciplined as well-coached as you're going to see. I guarantee they had a dozen films on us, but when it's here and you're facing it and we can pressure like that, we're pretty tough. Julia [Larson] was amazing [at the top of the pressure]."
The Bears unfortunately lost standout guard Avery Cooper to an apparent right knee injury in the first quarter and she did not return.
"She's having an unbelievable year," Bears coach Chris Bennett said. "She's our leading scorer and leading rebounder [at 13 points and 8.5 rebounds]. She came off a 21-point game the other night, but hey, injuries happen [and] someone else has got to step up. It's how the game works."
The Bears were paced by Brooke Wahlund's seven points and 11 rebounds. Anna Gilbertson had six points and two rebounds.