St. Charles North tips Batavia in OT
The fact that both Batavia and St. Charles North have one of the most marquee games on their schedules Saturday night didn't stop the teams from giving their fans an overtime thriller Friday.
Kyle Swanson's three-point play with 47 seconds left in the extra session proved to be the game-winner for the North Stars on their Senior Night in a 45-44 win over the Bulldogs.
North Stars coach Tom Poulin called this his team's "senior weekend" which continues Saturday night against St. Charles East, two rivals who just played an overtime classic last month.
While the North Stars try to reverse an 0-2 record to the Saints, Batavia will welcome DeLaSalle to town for what promises to be an emotional night on the 20th anniversary of Night of Hoops.
Neither the North Stars nor Bulldogs were sharp for a full 32 — or 36 — minutes Friday, the North Stars coming out strong with a 15-6 first quarter but committing seven turnovers in the third quarter and five more in the fourth.
"Ugly second half," Poulin said. "A lot of mental mistakes. We did a lot of things that are uncharacteristic of this team when we've been in close games. We haven't always pulled them out but we haven't made that many mental mistakes.
"We'll learn from it, and we still walked out with a win."
St. Charles North (12-8, 5-4 in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division) never trailed in the game but watched as Batavia (9-11, 3-6) outscored them 13-5 in the fourth quarter to erase what had been a 13-point North Stars lead in the third quarter.
Alec Goetz and Swanson missed shots in the final seconds of regulation that could have won the game. Tied at 37 going to overtime, Quinten Payne's fadeaway baseline jumper answered by Zach Strittmatter's bank on a drive made it 39-39 heading to the final minute.
Swanson found an opening in the Batavia defense and penetrated, crashing into Strittmatter while flipping a shot in. Swanson got the block/charge call to go his way, then made the free throw for a 42-39 lead.
"I just went to the basket and got fouled and it was kid of a lucky shot," Swanson said. "I knew we needed a basket there. I really wanted to bring it home for all the seniors and the team on Senior Night."
Batavia, which shot just 17 for 45 (37.7 percent) for the game, missed from point-blank range on its next trip. After Payne left the door open by missing a 1-and-1, the Bulldogs turned the ball over for the second time in overtime and 17th in the game.
Swanson made two free throws with 19 seconds to go and Jake Ludwig another with 6.1 seconds left which proved to be a big point when Jake Pollack nailed an NBA range 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Pollack and Strittmatter both scored 15 points to lead all scorers. The two seniors combined for 19 of Batavia's 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"There were a lot of good things that happened for us in the second half," said Batavia coach Jim Nazos who didn't like the way his defense let the North Stars get to the rim in the first half.
"The second half was a 180 degrees different. We did a good job on a great player Payne. We fought well to get back in it and have a shot."
Down 30-17 in the third quarter, Batavia's comeback began with a Pollack steal that he took the other way and dunked with his left hand. After a Micah Coffey 3-pointer to end the third quarter down 32-24, Pollack brought the Bulldogs closer with a tip-in and another putback early in the fourth.
Batavia pulled even at 37 with 1:24 left when Luke Horton split 2 free throws. After a North Star travel the Bulldogs had a chance to hold for the final shot but they too turned it over as Erik Miller poked the ball free.
Poulin called timeout with 20 seconds to go. Payne found Goetz who nearly scored on a drive to the rim. Mike Rueffer tipped the rebound out to the 3-point line where Ryan Thomas corralled the ball and dished to Swanson's whose 25-footer nearly went in at the buzzer.
Swanson led the North Stars with 13 points and Payne scored 11. Batavia outrebounded the North Stars 33-29 led by Strittmatter's 8; Justin Stanko grabbed 7 for the North Stars.
Miller provided a spark off the bench with a season-high 9 points, all in the second half, and had another basket waved off on a charge call.
"He came in and he's just a ball of energy," Poulin said. "He's had some good practices of late. He hasn't gotten extended playing time but when he gets minutes you notice him for the right reasons. I really like his defensive ability, his length and his anticipation."
Now both teams can turn their attention to big games Saturday.
"Tonight was step one (in senior weekend) and we'll have to perform much, much better tomorrow night to take care of step two," Poulin said.
The Bulldogs will have their hands for with Minnesota-bound Alvin Ellis and two DeLaSalle sophomores considered among the best in the state.
They also hope their own point guard Rueffer will be OK after Rueffer had to be helped off the court with a left knee injury in the final seconds Friday.
"No idea, big test will be in the morning, the trainer thought no ligament damage so we'll hope for a bruise," Nazos said.
"Our kids are excited for the night," Nazos continued. "It's a game you don't have to get them ready. All these players grow up watching the Night of Hoops. You are excited for it, and I'm excited for them, and I'm mostly excited for Coach (Jim) Roberts and his wife (Sylvia). It's (honoring Roberts) a great thing for a great man and his wife, a great team mom through the years."
Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDH
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