Lake Park throws St. Charles North scare before North Stars close strong

Three of the four quarters played in Lake Park’s Class 4A girls basketball regional title game followed script, with the much higher seeded team with the much better record controlling the play Thursday night.

But before St. Charles North could knock off the host Lancers a fourth time this season and advance, they had to sweat out a third quarter in which a young Lake Park squad started to believe in themselves in a big way.

Sure the North Stars (27-4) prevailed 35-22 and will now take on rival Geneva at the Batavia sectional, but not before an inspired No. 10-seeded Lancers squad (10-21) made a big run in the third quarter to scare the second-seeded North Stars by closing to within 24-22 after three quarters.

With senior guard Reagan Sipla scoring 11 points the North Stars built a 22-11 lead at the half and seemed ready to knock off Lake Park without too much stress. But the Lancers — who start four sophomores — played stout defense in the third quarter and guard Allie Gogola exploded for 9 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter.

The hosts outscored the North Stars 11-2 in the quarter as St. Charles North went 7 minutes without scoring before Laney Stark’s steal and transition bucket stopped the drought. A block down low from Elle Fuhr at the start of the fourth quarter kept the Lancers from drawing even, and the deeper, more experienced North Stars eventually pulled away, blanking lake Park 11-0 in the final quarter.

“We had some senior experience on the floor down the stretch, which is good, peppered in with a little bit of freshmen and a little bit of sophomore,” St. Charles North coach Mike Tomczak said. “We knew once we had control of the game, we would be able to settle it down, but it was a little up for grabs there for awhile.”

Forward Katrina Stack, who led the North Stars with 9 rebounds, knocked down a big 3-pointer for a 29-22 lead and then played a role in her team’s stifling defense in the final quarter.

“They have been defeated by us so many times I think they came out with anger. They had nothing to lose,” Stack said of the Lancers’ strong effort Thursday. “Against their defense it was really hard to get inside so hitting that 3 felt really good. Reagan [Sipla] knew exactly what was going to go on as soon as she handed the ball to me and she got really hyped, which I love.”

Sipla hit 6 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win and she finished with 16 points and 4 steals.

For Lake Park, the strong showing against a strong opponent bodes well for the future. The Lancers played primarily with five players for much of the year, and the five starters played every minute in the regional final until the final 56.5 seconds, when the first two reserves stepped on the floor.

“We wanted to play for our seniors and we wanted to give it everything we had,” said the sophomore Gogola, who finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds. “Especially coming out, the last three times we struggled against their press. We just tried to do everything we could to prepare. It was nice to have some fun in the third quarter even if we did lose. We just wanted to try and end it on a high note.”

Forward Alex Kiefer, another sophomore, led the Lancers with 9 rebounds.

“We just asked the girls to buy into what we were trying to do and what we thought would give us the best chance to beat them and they did,” Lancers coach Bob Rewibel said. “I can’t be more proud of how we battled in that game, to come out and do it on your home floor, starting four sophomores, hopefully that sets us up to where we want to be down the line.”

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