CHICAGO | Count the Pioneers of St. Francis de Sales as pleased, but not completely satisfied with their quarterfinal round victory in the Class 2A playoffs.
Their 44-28 success over Illiana Christian advanced them to today's semifinal game against hosts University of Chicago High, but Isis Mance, the junior who led the Pioneers with 12 points, has points of improvement.
"We've got to make more free throws," Mance said.
That might have been the only area de Sales didn't excel, as a 2-of-14 mark attests. Otherwise, the Pioneers' press, which coach Terrence Streater put on when he switched from a zone to a man-to-man, wore the Vikings out to the point Illiana pulled down no rebounds in the final quarter.
"We had a starter sick on Thursday and homecoming Friday and Saturday," Illiana coach Dave Bosman said. "I could see from warmups we were at half-speed. When they switched to the man-to-man, that got us over the edge mentally."
With a 12-12 scire early in the second quarter, de Sales (14-10) gradually pulled away on Illiana. A pair of 3-point baskets by sophomore Tasia Harris helped, but forcing the Vikings into turnovers -- 26 in all -- really made the difference.
"We started to get into the flow of the game," Mance said. "And we boxed out hard."
"The ball pressure was huge," Streater said. "We're a transition team. We played smart, with a little trap."
Along with Mance's dozen points, the Pioneers got 11 points from sub Brianta McMorris and 10 from Tyler Brown-Henderson.
Streater implores his players to use their speed, and they did. Time and again, an Illiana turnover led to either a Pioneers basket, or a Pioneer standing on the free-throw line.
Illiana's main attack was inside, where 6-foot-2 senior Jaclene Bonnema collected 14 of her game-high 16 points. But the Vikings (8-20) got nothing from outside, and had trouble feeding the ball inside.
"We were making our passes a half-second late," Bosman said. "We executed well for three quarters. It was a matter of finishing at the end."
De Sales beat the top-seeded Maroons (15-6) in the season opener. The rematch is at 5 p.m.