CHICAGO | Until Thursday night, St. Francis de Sales' girls basketball team had not won back-to-back regional titles.
That goal was accomplished with a 47-36 defeat of Agricultural Science at U. of Chicago High. Next week comes the next goal: capturing a sectional title.
"We'll let them celebrate tonight, and then back to work tomorrow," St. Francis de Sales coach Terrence Streater said of his 16-10 Pioneers.
The record is deceptive. Battling in the GCAC White can take its toll, but the struggles enhance de Sales' chances in Class 2A.
"We've had a rough season, but we were ready to play," guard Tasia Harris said. "Play hard, play smart, play dedicated. We were ready to win tonight. Back-to-back, that feels real good."
It's more than a slogan to the Pioneers. Playing smart was the most important part of the equation.
De Sales won't know who they face in sectional play until Saturday night, when the Lisle regional final is held.
The Cyclones (17-7) tried a high-low offense early, with 6-foot junior Colleen Kull feeding 5-foot-11 sophomore Kaye Patnett. That worked until the Pioneers threw their press on. From that point, Ag Science's offense became improvisational at best. The Cyclones made only four baskets on 22 attempts in the second half.
"It's just help defense, that's all," Streater said. "They missed a couple shots; we made a couple free throws."
And a handful of 3-pointers, including back-to-back 3s by Harris midway through the second quarter. They turned a 13-all tie into a six-point bulge for the Pioneers. The Cyclones rallied, cutting the gap to a point at the half, but the Pioneers, forcing Ag Science into nine second-half turnovers, gradually pulled away.
"We create a lot of turnovers, and that makes the game easier for us in transition," Streater said.
Harris and Brianta McMorris (who advanced in the 3-point competition) paced de Sales with 10 points each, with Tyler Brown-Henderson adding nine. The Cyclones were led by Patnett's 12 points, only three of which came after the break.