St. Francis runs past Wheaton Academy
When junior Maggie Culver said she feels St. Francis is playing its best basketball right now, she really meant it.
The Spartans saved their best for the final quarter when rival Wheaton Academy visited Friday night. They outscored the Warriors 20-4 in the period to overcome a 3-point deficit and claim a 53-40 runaway Metro Suburban Conference crossover victory.
"This one was pretty big," Culver said. "They are our rivals. This is huge for us."
Culver set the tone in the fourth quarter with her aggressive play on both ends of the court. She scored 9 of her game-high 17 points in the final period and added 5 rebounds and a crowd-igniting block.
Entering the quarter down 3, Culver and company scored the first 6 points to retake the lead, but that was only the beginning.
Kate Chaparro supported Culver with 7 points of her own, and before the Warriors knew it, they were down double digits.
"St. Francis has a lot of outside shooters and they played hard," Wheaton Academy coach Erin Carwell said. "I think we just ran out of gas right there in the fourth quarter. We missed some key shots."
An efficient offensive rhythm helped Spartans get open near the hoop in the fourth. They converted a handful of short buckets and went to the free-throw line 13 times.
On the night St. Francis shot 29 free throws, making 19, compared to just six trips for the visiting Warriors.
"We have to settle down and run our plays and we gotta be patient," Spartans coach Sandy De Craene said. "We're a young team and sometimes we're not very patient, but that's how we got some of those layups and fouls."
After an 8-8 first quarter St. Francis exploded in the second for 20 points to take a 28-18 lead into halftime.
But Wheaton Academy found its offense in the third quarter.
Freshman Jill Paulson sunk two 3-pointers, while Imani Hilmer and Jerilyn Blackmon, who had a team-high 13 on the night, pitched in 5 each in the quarter.
Warriors junior Molly Venhuizen tallied 4 of her game-high 12 rebounds in the quarter as well.
"When we are calm and in control and do our game plan, good things happen," Carwell said. "It just didn't sustain us throughout the game."
Immediately in the fourth, Culver and Chaparro took over to rip back the lead and finish off their visiting rivals.
It was senior night at St. Francis, and De Craene got her upperclassmen plenty of time on the court. Leading the way was Shannon Cooney with 7 points and 4 steals, while Elena Castaneda added 5 points, and Elizabeth Grivetti and Ashley Sullivan 3 apiece.
Culver said the program will miss them when they're gone.
"They are so inspirational. I look up to each and every one of them," she said. "Next year will be a struggle without them, but right now we're trying to make the most of every minute we have with them."