St. Charles North's new press causes Kaneland problems
Adopting a familiar, yet intricate, heavy guard-press defensive system is work that traces back several months.
St. Charles North, so far, is certainly seeing the buy-in.
The North Stars implemented a system of defense it sees often during DuKane Conference play, the same style Wheaton North's girls varsity team is known for. Guards press from the opening inbound pass, harass passing lanes and fly around to make teams genuinely have to work hard and craftily pass for an open look.
"We did our postseason meetings last year like we do every year and we ask them: 'what do you want to keep, what do you want to change?'," St. Charles North coach Mike Tomczak said following North's 63-29 victory over Kaneland Wednesday. "They said: 'Gosh, we'd really like to play a style where teams adjust to us, rather than us adjust to them. And, they like it."
"This is us, as a coaching staff, saying: 'This is what you want, [so] we're going to learn," Tomczak continued. "I did a lot of learning, a lot of studying and a lot of phone calls to help them build this system so we can do that. Now I think we have the makeup of kids to do it. I think we have the athletes up front and the athleticism in the back row to make this successful."
By halftime Wednesday, Kaneland had 17 turnovers and finished with 27 total on a frustrating offensive night.
Seeing that style of defense so often over the years, it helped the team implement it and made the process a bit smoother.
"I think it did. We've ran against it so many times and we've seen the pressure it puts on offensive players," St. Charles North senior guard Alyssa Hughes said following a dazzling 25-point performance. "We want to be the team dictating what the other team does as opposed to us having to react to what they do. We want to be the ones [where] they have to react to us."
One brief sequence to open the third quarter can perhaps paint a picture to putting that exact mindset into motion: Reagan Sipla (15 points, two rebounds) popped a three-pointer midway through the third quarter. Kaneland (1-1) then had its second turnover of the quarter and Ashley Wiedemann fed a streaking Julia Larson in transition for the fast break layup for the 37-18 North Stars advantage with 4:59 left in the frame.
St. Charles North (2-0) eventually had a rolling clock in the fourth quarter and cruised the rest of the way. Katrina Stack had four blocks, while Elle Fuhr hit her first varsity basket in the first quarter to finish with two points and four rebounds.
"It takes more [conditioning and mental focus] knowing where you have to go," Larson said following her own 13-point, three-rebound effort "You're not running back and forth. It's working with the one row and the two row to know where you have to be because it cuts down the running."
Kaneland, meanwhile, graduated some standouts including McKenzie Schueler and Olivia Sheehan, and current Knights senior Katharine Marshall opted not to play basketball this season. The Knights are figuring out their own growth amid the changes.
Kailey Plank had six points, while Kendra Brown had five points and two rebounds. Sam Kerry had 11 rebounds for the Knights.
"There's no doubt that's definitely going to be one of tougher teams we face all year," Kaneland coach Brian Claesson said. "It is tough -- second game of the year, don't get a ton of prep. Obviously, we prepped on their press a little bit yesterday, but I was proud of the girls. They fought the whole time and executed. Obviously, we knew [North's] whole emphasis on their team is to force turnovers. We knew they were going to do that.
"We're a young team, so that was a really good game to have some experience with."