Coming off a rugged conference win the night before, St. Francis boys basketball coach Erin Dwyer wondered how hard his team would bring it Saturday against nonconference foe Wheaton Academy.
He needn't have worried.
"It's always tough games, we always enjoy playing them, it's one of the best games of the year," said Spartans senior center John Detloff, who scored 9 of his team-high 14 points in the first quarter.
Extending a 6-point halftime lead in its own Spyglass Athletic Center, St. Francis forced 11 second-half turnovers and leaned into a 58-43 victory in Wheaton.
"I thought defensively, when guys locked down and tried to keep people in front of us, that was our goal," Dwyer said. "And it got a little sloppy for about a quarter and we just kind of weathered the storm and made it through."
After Friday's Chicago Catholic League win over Marmion, often like football played indoors, St. Francis (3-7) had no trouble rekindling the fire against Wheaton Academy (6-3).
"They don't stop, they don't quit. We can't give up either," said Detloff, who made 5 of 7 shots and grabbed 6 rebounds. "We just have to keep coming. We can't stop, we can't back down."
The Warriors shared that spirit, which is why it hurt.
"Most guys on our team will mark the date of this game," said sophomore guard Marcus Bult, who scored a team-high 12 points. "It's tough to come off this loss. We all had our sights set on beating them."
The game seemed to come around to different Spartans in different quarters. Detloff and Bryce Walker -- 6-foot-5 and 6-6, respectively -- paced a 15-12 first-quarter lead. Off the bench came Danny Blank and Noah Howard to extend it to 32-26 at halftime.
Wheaton Academy's Jayston Williams scored 11 points, all but 3 in that first half. Overall, Wheaton Academy made 17 of 52 shot attempts, 3 of 20 from 3-point range.
"Alex Rueth put on a clinic on how to play man-to-man defense," Dwyer said.
Only St. Francis' Andrew Harvey could have liked the messy third quarter, scoring 8 of his 11 as the Spartans remained ahead 41-34. The fourth was an ensemble, Walker and Detloff reappearing along with guards Matt Cooney and Michael Cascella, who finished with 11 points. Among Wheaton Academy's highlights was junior forward Sebastian Pares with 10 rebounds off the bench.
"I think the guys were trying to do too much there in the third and fourth quarter, trying to get it all back at once instead of just making that extra pass or doing the little extra things that we needed to do," said Wheaton Academy coach Steve Thonn.