St. Joseph survives scrappy St. Charles East

St. Charles East was looking for a statement victory.

The Saints had their chances Friday night against St. Joseph, considered one of the favorites for the Class 3A boys basketball state championship.

St. Charles East closed the final pool-play game of the Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament to a single possession multiple times in the second half.

But the Saints could never find the ultimate equalizer in falling 59-53 to the Chargers.

St. Charles East (2-1) will play St. Charles North in the third-place game at 6 p.m. Saturday. St. Joseph will play Plainfield East for the title.

"We just didn't hit our shots," St. Charles East coach Pat Woods said. "Normally, we're a much better shooting team."

Jake Asquini twice hit 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the final one coming with 51 seconds to play, to bring the Saints within one possession.

St. Joseph (3-0), though, closed out the game by converting 14 of 18 fourth-quarter free throws.

The Chargers have two Big Ten-bound guards in Glynn Watson (Nebraska) and Jordan Ash (Northwestern).

But Cole Gentry, showcasing his remarkable dribbling abilities, repeatedly beat each off them off the dribble in crafting a game-high 23-point performance.

"I thought (Gentry) was great," said St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore, the all-time leader in career wins. "St. Charles did a great job. I thought they would, playing on their home court in front of a big crowd."

Gentry had to shoulder an extra offensive load after James McQuillan was lost to a head injury late in the first quarter.

"It was tough losing him so early," Gentry said.

After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Gentry made his presence felt with a 7-point burst in a 66-second span early in the second.

But the Chargers' imposing 6-foot-11 post, junior Nick Rakocevic, matched the Gentry run with his own 7-point quarter.

The Chargers led 27-22 at the break as a result.

Gentry would erupt for 9 more points in the third quarter, outscoring the Chargers' two Division I recruits in the process.

"It's not about proving people wrong," Gentry said of his limited number of college offers. "It's about proving me right. I'm trying to show the hard work is paying off."

Seven times in the second half, St. Charles East made the game a one-possession contest.

"I thought we were too individual oriented," Pingatore said.

One recipe for victory that St. Charles East could not properly concoct, however, was rebounding.

The Chargers owned a commanding 39-19 edge off the glass.

"That was a big point of emphasis," Woods said.

Asquini (11 points), Jack Bronec (9) and Mike Vyzral (7) combined for 27 points for St. Charles East.

Rakocevic and Watson scored 17 and 15, respectively, for St. Joseph.

  St. Charles East's Evan DiLeonardi is sandwiched between St. Joseph's Jordan Ash, left, and Armone Elem as they scramble for a rebound in the third quarter of the St. Charles East tournament Friday. Laura Stoecker/
  St. Charles East's Evan DiLeonardi (12) and teammate Jack Bronec leap for a rebound with St. Joseph's Nick Rakocevic in the third quarter of the St. Charles East tournament Friday. Laura Stoecker/
  Cole Gentry led St. Charles East with 23 points Friday in a loss to St. Joseph in St. Charles. Laura Stoecker/
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