CHICAGO | Tyler Brown-Henderson has had one athletic quest since walking through the doors of St. Francis de Sales as a freshman.
"State!" the senior said, supplying the exclamation point verbally. "My goal since freshman year has been to win state."
Brown-Henderson and her Pioneers teammates took another step towards that achievement by beating the University of Chicago High Maroons, 47-37, Thursday night in the Maroons' gym.
Brown-Henderson was a huge part of the win, scoring 14 points and pulling down an equal number of rebounds. The Maroons had no match for her, and nobody to cover 5-foot-3 freshman Sharese Scott, who was 5-of-9 from behind the three-point arc in the first half, and led the Pioneers with 16 points.
It was 10-0, as the Maroons were forced into a flurry of turnovers, before St. Francis allowed the hosts to get a shot off. It was 19-0 before five minutes had been played.
"Defense will take us as far as we want to go," Pioneers coach Terrence Streater said. "That's it."
Defense was all St. Francis de Sales needed from that point. The Pioneers eased off just enough to make the final score appear like the game was competitive. In reality, they could have put the foot to the floor at any time.
"I tried to keep the pressure on early," Streater said. "I think we were good about managing the game."
He almost outmanaged things. The Maroons (21-5) cut the gap to nine points in the fourth quarter, forcing him to put three starters, Brown-Henderson and Scott included, back into the game.
Chicago was led by Kendall Rallins (15 points) and Sophia Gatton (14).
If there was one sore point to Streater, it was free throws. The Pioneers were 5-of-16 from the line.
By winning, de Sales advanced to sectional play for the third straight season. Last year, they were stopped at the sectional final. And the Pioneers' 13-13 record is deceiving.
"Our schedule: Montini, Ottawa, Pontiac. Tough teams. But it prepared us for this point," Streater said
And this point of the season is the only thing that matters.