Soccer skills come in handy for St. Charles East backcourt
Like any Batavia-Geneva basketball game, the two student sections tossed numerous chants back and forth at each other Friday night trying to one-up the other.
It goes without saying those chants included letting everyone know which school won the football game in the fall, and who knocked the football teams out of the playoffs.
This year there was another chant that you don't always hear, and it came when Batavia senior point guard Mike Rueffer — also a standout soccer player for the Bulldogs — went to the free-throw line.
"You play soc-cer!" went the Geneva student section.
While it was meant as a put-down, watching Rueffer excel as a floor leader for Batavia maybe it would help if more basketball players had a soccer background like Rueffer's.
You can bet St. Charles East girls basketball coach Lori Drumtra likes the experience soccer has had on her starting backcourt, Amanda Hilton and Carly Pottle.
The day after Rueffer and Batavia handed Geneva a 22-point loss, Hilton scored 11 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter Saturday leading the Saints to a 59-55 win over their rival, St. Charles North.
And Drumtra used soccer — which Hilton has a Division I future at — as a big reason for her basketball success.
"She kind of bounces off people like a pinball," Drumtra said after watching Hilton weave through the North Stars defense and either get into the lane for a short shot or draw contact to make 12 of her 14 free-throw attempts.
"That's what she reminds me of. Her and Carly play soccer on the basketball court. They really do. The way they move and bounce off of people it's very much a soccer mentality. They are the same way on defense, that aggressiveness, that contact, it's wonderful. It's very much instinct on their part."
Hilton, a junior who plays center-mid on the soccer team, often looks for Pottle, a forward in soccer, and she said the two work just as well together on the basketball court.
Pottle scored 8 points in the win over the North Stars and is averaging over 11 points a game this year for the Saints. St. Charles East has a 7-1 record in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division and a half-game lead over Streamwood heading into a key game Friday at Geneva, with the 5-2 Vikings just a game back in the loss column.
"We're always working together (in soccer) so it goes with basketball and how we are both guards and feed off each other's energy," Hilton said. "It's a really quick game. In soccer you have to be in condition. The speed of play and knowing where each other are because we've played with each other so long helps coming into basketball."
Hilton used to play AAU basketball with the Lady Lightning before stopping last year. Her schedule can get a little crazy between the Saints basketball team and her club soccer team, the Strikers, sometimes with two practices a night. Earlier this season she missed a weekend of Saints basketball to play in a soccer tournament in San Diego.
But it is all paying off in both sports with college waiting at Nebraska in two years for soccer and also helping her on the basketball court. Hilton said handling the ball with a lead late in the fourth quarter or going to the free-throw line come easier for her because of her soccer experiences.
"A lot of the situations with high pressure, a lot of that comes in soccer too so we are used to it," Hilton said.
Follow John on Twitter @jlemonDH
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