Rough second half dooms St. Francis
Yes, it is possible to play very well in the first half but not as well in the second half and still win.
But that didn't happen to St. Francis on Friday night against Riverside-Brookfield in the Class 3A Nazareth regional final in LaGrange Park.
The Bulldogs (22-5) opened a 10-point lead on the Spartans (15-12) after three quarters and blew the game out in the final period with a 25-point effort to advance with a 63-41 victory.
Riverside-Brookfield, a second seed in its own sectional, will face seventh-seeded Chicago Orr in semifinal play this Wednesday. Orr beat Chicago Marshall 60-54, also on Friday, to win the Marshall regional.
The 10th-seeded Spartans led 17-13 after the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting. Although St. Francis cooled in the second quarter for just five points, it trailed just 23-22 at halftime and it continued to look like it could be anybody's contest.
"The third quarter killed us," St. Francis coach Shawn Healy said. "We panicked a little bit and it was downhill from there. We were not in sync. In the first half it was the way we wanted things. We had the pace we wanted."
The Spartans' Michael Scholl, who scored 12 points, sank two free throws with 5:33 left in the period to put St. Francis within 4. But with the help of a balanced scoring attack, R-B finished the quarter on a 10-2 run.
"They played tough defense all game," Scholl said. "We came out and executed the best we could. Riverside-Brookfield is a good team."
R-B's momentum carried over into the fourth quarter as Ryan Jackson scored 11 second-half points and teammate Luke Nortier was good for 13 during that timespan. Jackson finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Bulldogs coach Tom McCloskey wanted to see his team control the tempo of the game after halftime.
"I didn't like the pace (in the first half). We stepped up and stayed patient. We got some stops and got some scores," he said. "We hit some big 3s. Ryan hit some free throws and Luke had a big night. He gave us a lift."
Ryan Coyle led St. Francis with 15 points.
The Spartans went into the game after defeating fifth-seeded Nazareth 42-39 on Wednesday.
"This group is second to none, a special team," Healy said. "When things were not going well, this team continue to practice and prepare with the same effort and intensity."