St. Charles East sophomore point guard Dom Adduci turned into a "points" guard Wednesday night.
In his first varsity postseason start, Adduci turned in a veteran-like performance, scoring a game-high 25 points to help lift the second-seeded Saints (15-12) to a surprisingly convincing 63-50 Class 4A regional semifinal victory over third-seeded host St. Charles North.
Adduci didn't show any sign of playoff nerves, as he connected on 9-of-15 shots from the field, including five 3-pointers for the Saints, who earned their first regional triumph over St. Charles North (13-16) since 2003.
"The 3-point contest definitely had me more nervous than the actual game," Adduci said of the competition held 40 minutes prior to tip-off. "I was a little nervous but not too much."
Adduci single-handedly kept the Saints within striking range early, accounting for all 7 of his team's points as the North Stars grabbed a 12-7 first-quarter lead.
His 3-pointer in the first minute of the second period trimmed the North Stars' lead to 12-10, and Kendall Stephens' layup a couple minutes later put the Saints on top for good, 13-12.
But the complexion of the game might have changed when St. Charles North senior center Kyle Nelson was whistled for his second foul just 18 seconds into the second quarter.
With Nelson on the bench, the Saints outscored the North Stars 14-2 and held them without a field goal in the second quarter.
"As soon as he (Nelson) went out, the paint opened up tremendously," said Saints senior guard Charlie Fisher, who had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and too-many-to-count floor burns.
Adduci's driving layup and Stephens' 1-handed dunk off a feed from Dom Urso were part of the Saints' second-quarter surge.
"You don't have a 6-foot-8 guy looking over your shoulder so you take it to the hoop," said Fisher. "It opens up the game for everyone."
St. Charles North was 0-for-10 from the field in the second quarter.
"After Kyle went to the bench, we became a perimeter-oriented team," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin, whose squad had won 9 of their last 10 meetings with St. Charles East.
While Nelson returned to the floor and scored 9 of his team-leading 18 points in the third quarter, the Saints were able to stretch their lead to 43-31 thanks in part to 4-of-6 accuracy from beyond the arc.
Adduci had 2 of those 3-pointers, while Johnny Hondlik (5 points, 7 rebounds) and Urso (7 rebounds) also added long-range jumpers.
"We're the type of team where if we can get in our rhythm we're pretty tough," said Saints coach Pat Woods. "I thought we got in a rhythm in that third quarter to widen the gap a little bit."
St. Charles East, which will face top-seeded Elgin (24-3) for the regional title Friday night, led by as many as 18 points down the stretch. Luke Ludke added 7 points for the Saints, who also out-rebounded the North Stars, 39-34.
"We had 10 offensive rebounds, which has to be a season-high for us," said Woods.
And the Saints had Adduci, who enjoyed the frenzied atmosphere in the North Stars' gym.
"I played two minutes in a regional game last year against Chicago Clark (while a freshman at Wheaton Academy)," said Adduci. "It was nothing like this."
"Dom is in a great flow right now," Woods said of Adduci. "When you have a sophomore doing what he's doing, I think he's going to open a lot of eyes if that play continues."
Quinten Payne added 16 points for the North Stars.
"Our guys will say they wanted it and I believe it but with the way East played, it just looked like they wanted it more," said Poulin. "We really didn't do a whole lot well other than those first eight minutes, and that's a credit to St. Charles East."