RIVER FOREST | Asked how big Saturday's win over Regina Dominican was, Seton's Desiree Jackson said, "Every win is the same."
Her smile belied that notion.
The 41-37 triumph over Regina was big for three reasons. First, it avenged a regular season loss to the Panthers in their lair. Second, it earned the Sting the GCAC White Division Tournament title. Third, it wasn't easy. Seton trailed by nine points early in the third quarter.
Then their man-to-man defense, which Regina hadn't seen in the regular season, began to click. In the last 10 minutes, Regina made only two field goals, just one coming in the final quarter. And Jackson, a freshman who plays ferociously without the ball, was the ringleader in shutting the Panthers down.
"We just got more aggressive," Jackson said.
"We went man-to-man to put more pressure on their guards, to make them work a little bit harder," coach Kevin Green said. "They started to make bad passes. And Jackson, she's my lockdown defender in the paint."
Eight of Regina's 13 turnovers were committed in the second half. Seton also ruled the boards in the final quarter, outrebounding Regina 7-4, which may not sound like much, but helped turn the tables in a game the Sting trailed for the better part of the first 27 minutes. Regina led 24-15, then 24-20, before the comeback began.
"With this team, it was bothering me, but I wasn't worried, because I know we play better defense than we'd played," Green said. "The girls took the challenge and stepped up."
At the same time, the Sting (19-8) perked up offensively. Ebony Bailey, 8-of-10 from the floor, scored eight of her game-high 21 points in the final quarter, the first basket coming on a 12-foot jumper, the last three in the shadow of the hoop.
"We had to go to a man-to-man to put more pressure on the ball," Bailey said. "They couldn't handle the ball."
Brittany Mitchell added 10 points for Seton. Regina (6-20) was led by Abigail Wagner, who came off the bench to score 13 points. But she and fellow sub Ali Shulski (9 points) were held without a field goal in the final quarter thanks to Jackson and sophomore Melini McCoy, whose defensive minutes in the late going were crucial.
Now comes five days off for the Sting before their IHSA Class 1A adventure commences with a regional semifinal against either Morgan Park Academy or Providence St. Mel at Chicago Hope Academy.
"We're going to relax for a day," Green said.