WHEATON – Shelby Winkelman darted from the baseline to the sideline to retrieve an errant pass intended for a St. Francis girls basketball teammate midway through Tuesday’s third quarter.
She tapped the ball back to another fellow Spartan and St.Francis called timeout, the double-digit advantage it enjoyed for much of the night well intact.
“All throughout the game, I mean, we weren’t going to give up,” Winkelman said. “No matter what, how many points we scored. Just so we knew that we were safe through it all.”
Outside of a meager early deficit, the Spartans controlled the tempo during a 72-45 victory against Rosary in a Class 3A St. Francis Regional semifinal. St. Francis (13-13) hopes to keep clicking when it faces top-seeded Glenbard South in the regional final at 7 p.m. Thursday.
A smooth motion offense boosted the Spartans and helped create a quartet of double-digit scorers that struck equally from the inside and outside. Senior guard Christine Fasana led the way with a career-high 24 points, flanked by classmates Winkelman (15) and Antwainette Walker (14), as well as freshman Katelin Chaparro (12).
St. Francis drilled eight 3-pointers, with Winkelman and Fasana both banking in treys in the final minute of the second quarter.
“You could see the open cuts and that we were scoring more and more times,” Fasana said. “And I think the fact that we opened up the floor really, really helped.”
Rosary (14-13) navigated St. Francis’ early full-court pressure efficiently in spots, pushing the ball up the floor to a veteran frontcourt.
While forward Sophia Kramer, one of nine Royals seniors, capped her career with a personal-best 22 points, others fought to provide secondary scoring. Sophomore Zoe Ketterman added 10 points for Rosary in an emotional, physical game in which referees whistled the Royals for three technical fouls, including one on coach Phil Van Bogaert.
Trailing by 16 points both at halftime and after three quarters, Rosary drew to within 13 on Ketterman’s contested layup with 5:45 remaining in the game. But St. Francis seized control again moments later, when a disputed offensive foul call prompted the Royals’ final technical.
“We knew what we were getting into,” said Rosary senior post Sydney Drozdowski, who scored seven points. “We knew we had Antwainette going coast to coast. We knew they had some shooters. And you know, as a team, we practiced against it and unfortunately, you know, it didn’t work for us.”
Each of St. Francis’ four seniors started the game, their portraits adorning a baseline wall. The Spartans, also easy victors in a regional quarterfinal against Illinois Math and Science Academy Monday, feel good about their late-season chemistry under assistant-turned-head-coach Sandy DeCraene, who took over the program when former coach Melissa Taylor moved to Phoenix at midseason.
“We all don’t want it to be over yet,” Winkelman said. “So, I mean, we’re playing our hearts out.”
Rosary, meanwhile, saw its own sense of urgency valiantly expire.
“When you’re going into regionals, you know any game could be your last,” Kramer said. “You have to play every game like it’s your last. AndI think that’s why we came out today and we gave it everything we had and we left it all on the court for each other and for the game.”