Laney Stark translates some of the defensive aggressiveness she exhibits on the soccer pitch to the basketball court, and that, ultimately, is proving to be St. Charles North’s gain.
Stark has grown to become a key cog atop the North Stars’ guard pressure defensive system alongside seniors Alyssa Hughes and Julia Larson.
“Defensively, what she brings to us is intensity, and physicality,” North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said following St. Charles North’s 46-39 win over DuKane Conference foe Batavia on Thursday. “There’s not a lot of players in our Conference that won’t back down from (Batavia standout) Brooke Carlson. She went nose-to nose with her.”
“That whole second half, locked her up for a couple steals or a couple jump balls,” Tomczak continued. “Gets her hands on balls, deflecting all the time. But, offensively, she’s so unselfish that her teammates love playing with her.”
Stark transferred from Bartlett High School prior to the season and played varsity soccer. It’s shaped the defensive mentality of “staying in front and not trying to get beat.”
“Just heart,” Stark said following her 3-point, 4-rebound, 3-steal effort.
St. Charles North (15-4, 6-1) took a 40-28 lead to close the third quarter, but Batavia (12-8, 4-3) had other plans rather than backing down.
Carlson, who had 16 points at halftime, was able to sink 4 free throws to open the final quarter to start their rally. Alexa Schorr followed up with a layup and after Stark missed two free throws, Batavia guard Natalie Warner sank a 3-pointer to pull within three with 4:25 left.
Hughes and Batavia guard Addie Prewitt traded layups and Stark later added a critical strip on a Bulldogs layup opportunity in transition to protect the North Stars’ 42-39 lead. Carlson then missed two free throws with two minutes left.
After Stark missed a free throw with 38 seconds left, Hughes was able to sink two free throws with 10.6 seconds left to give the North Stars breathing room. Reagan Sipla’s two free throws ensured them their fifth consecutive win.
St. Charles North was paced by Hughes’ 16 points, while Sipla had 15 points and four rebounds. Katrina Stack had 7 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
“We were just hot shooting early versus we didn’t shoot it as well in the second half,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “They were getting us to scramble a lot more in the second half than we felt like we had to, especially in that first quarter. I kind of felt like we started playing a little faster than we wanted to on the offensive end, and again, that’s what we were saying (postgame). I have to go back and watch it and see (if we were) really playing faster than we were in the first or did it just seem better because we were making all those shots?”
Batavia was led by Carlson’s 20 points and Warner’s 5 points and 4 rebounds.
“It felt like we had a great quarter, a so-so quarter, third quarter was really rough and then I thought we battled back and played pretty dang awesome that fourth quarter,” Jensen said. “Really, they had one bucket and the free throws at the end.”