WHEATON – A simple switch in defenses paved the way for a victory by the St. Francis girls basketball team Friday night.
After one quarter, the Spartans trailed Aurora Christian in a Suburban Christian Conference clash, 9-4. But after switching from a man-to-man defense to a zone, St. Francis outscored the Eagles 36-22 the rest of the way for a 40-31 win.
“I’d like to think we’d be able to play man-to-man defense better against people and we’re going to keep working on getting better at it,” St. Francis coach Mike Phillips said. “But that’s a very athletic team, a very well-coached team, and we didn’t have the exact matchups we needed at the beginning of the game.”
Phillips noted that the Spartans (3-6, 3-1 SCC Gold) were having a difficult time rebounding while playing man, particularly with Aurora Christian sophomore Natasha Brown. The 5-foot-8 forward grabbed eight rebounds in the first quarter on her way to 18 for the night. Half of those were on the offensive end, but did not always end up getting converted into points for the Eagles (5-4, 1-2).
“When she really learns how to finish, she’s going to be unbelievable to watch,” Aurora Christian coach Jerry Tokars said. “She’s uncanny.”
A basket inside by Aurora Christian freshman Gabby Galbato put the Eagles up 17-15 at the start of the third quarter, but the rest of the stanza belonged to Aly Germanos. The St. Francis senior guard scored all nine of her points in the quarter, including a three-pointer from the left side that put the Spartans up 26-20 going into the final eight minutes.
“She goes hard all the time,” Phillips said. “I know at some point in the game, she’s going to have flashes like that. It’s nice to have, and it happened at a great time for us.”
Aurora Christian pulled to within three midway through the fourth quarter when sophomore Taylor Eaves got the bounce on a long shot, but St. Francis senior point guard Kate Slattery made sure the Eagles would get no closer. She hit a three from right of the key, then followed it up with a Houdini-like move to shovel a shot around Brown that went in to push the lead to 37-29 with 2:42 to play.
“I don’t know what that was,” Phillips said. “That was one of those, ‘No, no, no, yes!’ … She’s been pretty steady, especially for the last four or five games. She’s found some confidence in her scoring.”
With 12 points, Slattery was the only player on either team to crack double figures.
“I always feel like I need to step it up,” Slattery said of her play. “It’s great, especially [hitting] those threes, hearing the stands go crazy.”
Slattery pointed out that after losing their first six games of the season, the Spartans have won three straight.
“We’ve definitely become more aggressive,” she said. “We’re working on our boxing out and rebounding, getting those second chances. Right now we’ve got a good winning streak, so we want to keep that going.”
Junior forward Abby Winkler had six points and eight boards for the Spartans, who will try to keep their winning streak going today at home against Glenbard South.