Kyle Nelson was a monster in the paint for St. Charles North, and Quinten Payne fired away from the floor with impunity Thursday night against visiting Waubonsie Valley.
Unfortunately for the North Stars in their regular-season-ending boys basketball Upstate Eight Conference crossover with the Warriors, no one on the squad had a solution for Jared Brownridge.
The Waubonsie Valley standout junior off-guard torched the North Stars for a game-high 31 points as his team never trailed in a 64-54 victory in St. Charles in a matchup of second-place teams from the Valley and the River. The North Stars tied for the River title but played in the second-place game after losing a coin flip to Elgin.
"(Brownridge) had been in a shooter's slump," Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer said his junior star pumped in his game-high total on 13-for-19 from the field, including three 3-pointers. "It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn't matter if its high school, college or the NBA."
The key sequence in the game came in the final minute of the third quarter and the opening minute and 45 seconds of the final quarter.
St. Charles North (13-15) had an 18-7 run, highlighted by 3-point field goals from Jason Weinzirl and Michael Schroeder, to slice its 32-19 halftime deficit to 39-37 with a minute to go in the third quarter.
But Browridge hit a smooth-as-jazz baseline jumper to double the Warriors' lead, and Javares Stewart scored at the buzzer to extend the Waubonsie Valley cushion to 43-37 entering the fourth quarter.
Taking the first possession of the fourth, Brownridge not only scored and completed a 3-point play, but Nelson picked up his fourth foul 19 seconds into the quarter.
With Nelson banished to the bench, Browridge extended his personal run to 7 points with a gorgeous tip-in and breakaway layup.
Suddenly, Waubonsie Valley (18-8) was up 50-37, and the North Stars never came closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
"I have been in a shooting slump the last 7 games," Brownridge said. "(On the tip-in) I was just trying to hustle. I did anything I could to help my team."
Hitting his first 4 shots from the field, including back-to-back 3-pointers, Brownridge staked the Warriors to quick 10-2 lead.
Payne and Nelson combined for 17 of the North Stars' first-half points as Ryan Thomas' inside score accounted for the only other St. Charles North field goal.
St. Charles North was an entirely different team during its third-quarter run, nearly matching its entire first-half output on 8 of 12 field-goal shooting.
Nelson scored 18 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked 5 Waubonsie Valley shots through the opening three quarters.
"He was a load on the inside," Weemer said.
But the North Stars' season-long penchant for free-throw inaccuracy and Nelson being foul prone surfaced at the worst possible time.
The North Stars' only two foul-shot conversions came via Payne (team-high 21 points) with 1:11 to play.
Nelson fouled out with 3:24 to play.
"I haven't shot that bad since I was in third grade," Nelson said of his fruitless night at the free-throw line. "I missed five of them. It was inexcusable."
"When we don't defend on the perimeter, Kyle gets in foul trouble," St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. "It takes five guys to guard Brownridge."
Bryan Jefferson had 15 points and 8 rebounds for Waubonsie Valley.
"(Jefferson) has really come on since Christmas," Weemer said.
Waubonsie Valley plays Hinsdale Central at Downers South on Wednesday, while St. Charles North has its fourth encounter with St. Charles East at home the same night.