ST. CHARLES – The wins have been hard to come by for St. Charles North’s basketball team this season.
Searching for their first DuKane Conference victory, the North Stars (6-19, 1-10) broke through at one of the most opportune times, snapping a 10-game conference losing streak with a hard-fought, 69-62 win over crosstown rival St. Charles East (11-15, 5-6) on Feb. 3 in St. Charles.
Junior 6-foot-5 center Jake Furtney scored a career-high 29 points and collected a game-high 12 rebounds for the North Stars, who used an 8-0 run over the final 1:50 to pull away from the host Saints.
“It feels great,” said Furtney, who shot 10 for 15 from the field and used his bulk down low to frustrate the Saints’ interior defense.
“We’ve been fighting for it [first conference win] for a long time. We’ve been working hard for it. We’ve come close so many times, so it feels good to get the first [win].”
St. Charles East grabbed a 62-61 lead on a three-point play from senior guard Steven Call (14 points, six rebounds) with 2:57 remaining before the North Stars took the lead for good on a clutch 3-pointer by junior forward Parker Reinke (10 points, three steals) with 1:50 left.
“When they’re worried about the big guy [Furtney] down low, things happen,” North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “If we go inside-out – I know that’s kind of old school – it’s going to make our outside guys even better because they can play.”
After a Saints turnover, Furtney inflicted a little more damage inside, rebounding a missed free throw for an easy basket and extending North’s lead to 66-62 with 52 seconds remaining.
“That’s where our advantage was – inside,” Poulin said. “We started two bigs even though we knew they were going to press. That’s risky, but our advantage is inside and we wanted to force feed it.”
Juniors Daniel Connolly and Luke Holtz added 14 and 10 points, respectively, as the North Stars atoned for their 42-39 loss to the Saints on Dec. 16.
“It’s good to see these guys compete intelligently for four quarters,” Poulin said. “They tried to win. They did the things that win consistently. That’s what we’ve been striving for.”
Playing before a near capacity crowd, the North Stars enjoyed a 34-27 edge on the glass.
“We always say when we come here that we want to be the eye of the storm,” Poulin said. “[Retired assistant] Rob Prentiss told us that years ago – to be the eye of the storm. We wanted to have fun.
“This place, when it’s East-North with a full house, this is high school basketball, so enjoy it. I’m happy for them because they’ve been through a lot and they keep coming to work and they keep playing hard.”
“This is the one game I had circled,” Furtney said. “It’s fun to come out here and do something like that.”
Drew Clarke came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points for the Saints. Jack Borri had 11 points, Jacob Vrankovich added eight points and six rebounds, and Eddie Herrera had seven points and four assists.
“They were ready for us,” Saints coach Patrick Woods said. “I feel like it was a flipped script from last year. That’s the beauty of the East-North rivalry.”
Before the game, East and North Drill Team members announced they raised $52,698.13 for charity through their 28th annual Kick-A-Thon. Retiring Saints coach Kari Batka, who began the fundraising event in 1993, received a standing ovation for her efforts, which have helped raise more than $1.5 million to fight cancer.