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St. Francis played a scrappy basketball game Friday night but couldn't overcome a bad third quarter in losing to Coal City 38-32 at the Lisle Holiday Cage Classic.
Emily Halliday had a game-high 27 points for the Coalers, and Reagan Sproat scored 10 for the Spartans.
The young Spartans had one senior, Caroline Pinns, in the starting lineup but kept pace with the speedy Coalers (13-0), who led 18-17 at the half.
"That was a very well-coached, aggressive team," said Spartans coach Mike Phillips. "Teams that play tough defense on us, we sometimes have a hard time executing our offense. That's something we have to keep working on and try to get better at."
The Spartans came out flat in the third quarter and were outscored 10-3, with Sproat scoring all 3 points. The Coalers had a strong lead 28-20 going into the fourth quarter.
"I had a couple of turnovers," said the Spartans' Mia Mazza, who had 9 points. "I got a little less confident in the third quarter. ... We lost focus a little bit. We need to stay better focused as a team for the whole game."
Halliday, who had 12 points in the first half took over the game with 15 points in the second half, including 9 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Halliday was clearly the difference in the game.
"We didn't have real good balance tonight," said Coalers coach Brad Schmitt. "Emily is somebody who can take control of the game. Tonight I think she put us on her shoulders and helped us to a victory."
The Spartans (7-6) had a tough time guarding Halliday and no answer for the high-scoring senior.
"She's a very fast player and very hard to guard," Mazza said. "No one on our team could guard her. She's really quick, really agile and crafty around the hoop."
"We put a good effort on her, but she's a good player," Phillips said. "We are pretty young and not a lot of varsity experience. It's been a learning experience for us and we'll try to get better."
Schmitt had high praise for the Spartans' effort.
"There's no doubt we didn't have one of our better games," Schmitt said. "You have to give them credit, they took us out of a lot of what we wanted to do. It's a tough team. But at tournament time, you're just lucky to survive and advance."
The Coalers move on to face Wheaton Academy, which defeated Newark 44-42, in Saturday's tournament semifinals.