St. Francis blasts past Joliet Catholic
When St. Francis can get out and run, and the Spartans maintain their focus, they can be a tough girls basketball team to deal with.
Joliet Catholic found that out Saturday.
St. Francis completed the regular season with a 63-44 nonconference victory against Joliet Catholic in Wheaton.
"We wanted to get some momentum going into the playoffs," St. Francis senior Mia Mazza said. "I think we came out pretty strong. Sometimes we have a tough time staying mentally focused and just taking off a quarter. The second quarter we were struggling at the free-throw line, sort of lost the rebounding game. When halftime came we said we really needed to just focus, finish off the final two quarters, and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that."
The Spartans (16-11) finished the first quarter on a 12-1 run for a 22-12 lead and went ahead by 16 midway through the second quarter.
But this time it was the Angels' turn to finish strong. They cut the Spartans' lead to 34-30 at halftime because they cut their turnovers down to 5 from 14 in the first quarter.
It was not the kind of play Spartans coach Melissa Taylor wanted to see just a few days before the team's regional opener Wednesday night at Wheaton Academy.
"A lot of inconsistencies, a lack of rotations," Taylor said. "For us it's just a matter of building good habits for next week. Obviously, it's one and done for us, and we have to go in with the mentality that we have to give everything we possibly can, and I think the second half was much better for us today."
The Spartans got back on track in the third quarter by ratcheting up the defensive pressure. By the end of the period, they led 53-35. They forced 11 turnovers in the third quarter, 40 for the game, with their full-court pressure.
"We're definitely at our best when we're getting steals and in transition," Mazza said. "We're a fast-paced team. We definitely want to keep that up for the playoffs."
"That's our strength," Taylor said. "I like to capitalize on that. But we also gave up 30 points in the first half and only 14 in the second half. So if we can have more first-half differences than second half, that would be a lot better for us."
It wasn't very good for Joliet Catholic (0-26).
"We've seen that defense a lot, and our girls are still trying to figure out where the openings are at," Angels coach Nick Leonard said. "Sometimes they try to force some things. We played that defense a couple of days ago and had more turnovers than we did today, so it was actually a little bit of an improvement today.
"Our team is really young so they haven't seen a defense like that before. They're starting to learn where the openings are at, but it was definitely a main contributor toward opening the game up."
Mazza had a double-double of 21 points and 10 steals. Junior Antwainette Walker, who passed the 1,000-point milestone earlier this season, added 18 with 4 steals.
Kellen McLeod and Kendall Spreitzer scored 11 points apiece for the Angels.