PALATINE – Lake Zurich senior point guard Alayna Soukup saw a slight opening to take advantage of a small window on Saturday.
Soukup used her strength to get some space, driving past a group of St. Charles North defenders to score on a strong drive to the basket early in the fourth quarter.
From that moment, Lake Zurich’s girls basketball team regained control of the game, pulling out a 50-41 victory in the Chicagoland Invitational Showcase at Fremd.
Soukup, a Lewis University recruit, scored a game-high 19 points while Anna Gilbertson chipped in with 15 points. The 5-foot-10 Soukup scored four points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by her driving basket off the glass to give the Bears a 37-35 lead.
“The whole team’s energy and the bench and us getting good shots and kick-outs were the difference in the game,” Soukup said. “I’m happy we beat a good team.”
Lake Zurich (5-3) held the North Stars (6-2) scoreless in the final 3:10 after Reagan Sipla buried a corner 3-pointer and free throw for a four-point play. The sophomore guard scored eight of her 13 points in the final quarter.
“The first quarter we went down 19-9 to start the game, and it took us awhile to get used to the level of physicality of the game,” St. Charles North coach Mike Tomczak said. “I thought we adjusted in the second quarter and evened it out in the third. They were just so big and strong inside. I thought we did a pretty nice job. Our bigs were doing their best taking away the baseline, but down the stretch we had to start gambling. I’m proud of how our girls responded.”
The North Stars made some big plays in their comeback bid, but each time the Bears responded with another run for some cushion. Junior guard Alyssa Hughes (14 points) drilled two 3-pointers to score two points in the third. She hit a deep 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 35-30.
The Bears clamped down on defense and hit their free throws to ice the non-conference win.
“St. Charles North can really shoot, but we started to defend better and rebounded the heck out of the ball,” Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett said. “We limited their second shots. That was the difference.”
Tomczak said his players will benefit from playing in the all-day showcase, which included numerous college coaches in attendance.
“This is the first time we’ve played here in a few years, Tomczak said. “There were a lot of eyes here on the girls and nerves. We have to get used to that. The girls played together, so we got better tonight. We have some players that we think people want to see. This is great basketball and a great event.”