CHICAGO | Seton Academy's 55-36 victory in Friday night's Class 1A regional was the first regional title for the Sting in girls basketball since 1998.
Desiree Jackson wasn't born in 1998.
Friday, the freshman pulled down 16 of Seton's 41 rebounds and added eight points in leading the Sting's effort.
"I boxed out, and the rebounds, they just came," she said.
There was more to it than that. Hope's Khadijat Dosunmu led the hosts with 19 points, but she only had five points in the second half.
"I said to Desiree, 'No more of that,'" Seton coach Kevin Green said. "We played man-to-man yesterday (in the semifinal win over Morgan Park Academy), but tonight we decided to just go with our regular defense, our 2-3. It seems like teams are having a hard time figuring it out. And we led Desiree lock up the middle. We sort of match up to where the other team's best player is."
"I'm happy to be a part of this," Jackson said of winning the regional crown.
She was central to the defensive cause, but by no means all of it. One thing the Sting does well is communicate.
"We talked a lot about helping each other on defense," said Ebony Bailey, whose 14 points led the Sting.
The turning point was a 14-point run triggered by stiff defense and punctuated by three straight baskets by Bailey. That turned Seton's one-point lead into a 15-point bulge in a little over three minutes in the first half. By the time Dosunmu ended the outburst with a field goal, it was too late. The Sting was en route to a 33-19 halftime lead.
The Sting was too quick for the Eagles, both with hands and feet. Seton forced 26 turnovers and blocked the shooting lanes as well in picking up its 22nd win of the season, against eight losses. Hope closes at 16-11.
But the competition stiffens in the second week of the playoffs. Seton plays Ida Crown in Monday's second Class 1A sectional semifinal at Willows Academy in Des Plaines.
"Coming into the season, the girls had low expectations," Green said. "I guess we blew that all out."
Before the game, Seton's Tiffany Ellis, who had nine points in the game, advanced to the sectional phase of the IHSA's three-point shooting competition.