AURORA – St. Francis’ guard/forward Jason Pisarski only had two points in the fourth quarter against Aurora Central Catholic on Friday.
But he made them count, coming up with a steal and scoring with 1:41 left to play to give his team a four-point lead en route to a 46-43 Class 3A IMSA Regional championship victory.
“I just like making plays for my team,” Pisarski said. “I just tried to make the steal, and when I did, I also tried to make the layup. I have been working on that a lot this year, trying to anticipate more.”
Spartans’ coach Bob Ward thought his team showed “a lot of grit” in the win over the Chargers.
“Down at the end, when we needed to, we came up with a couple huge rebounds,” Ward said. “Pisarski made that huge steal. He’s done that for us all year long.”
St. Francis (20-7), the No. 2 seed, moves onto the Freeport Sectional to face Sycamore on Wednesday. ACC, the fourth seed, ends its season at 16-13.
St. Francis led 13-8 after a quarter and appeared to be cruising late in the first half with a 24-17 lead before ACC rallied for eight straight points to take a 25-24 advantaged, capped by Phil Schuetz’ layup for the lead with six second left in the half.
ACC continued the momentum into the second half, taking a 30-25 lead on a Schuetz dunk midway through the third quarter, only to see St. Francis run off seven straight to end the quarter to give St. Francis a 32-30 lead, with the final bucket coming on a putback by Zach Prociuk with less than a minute to play.
St. Francis increased its lead to 34-30 early in the fourth when Schuetz was called for his fifth foul during a scrum for a rebound.
“I thought it was a jump ball,” Schuetz. “I had it first and then one of their guys came and grabbed it away.”
Chargers’ coach Nate Drye did not agree with the call.
“If anything, I thought the foul was on the St. Francis’ guy,” he said. “I thought Phil got the ball first. I just don’t think you foul out the best player in the game on a jump ball. That is taking nothing away from St. Francis. They were terrific tonight.”
Andrew Kimball followed with a 3-pointer to put St. Francis up 37-30, but ACC roared back with seven straight points on two free throws from Sean Anger, a 3-pointer by Sean Harreld and a basket from Anger.
Tim Zettinger then nailed a pair from the line for a 39-37 St. Francis lead with 2:07 to play, which was followed by Pisarski’s steal and hoop.
Anthony Andujar hit 1 of 2 from the line for ACC to cut the deficit to 41-38, but Kevin McShea came right back with a basket with 1:16 left.
Andujar hit a bucket to make it 43-40 with 37 seconds to go, and McShea missed the front end of a one-and-one. Andujar could not hit a runner in the lane. McShea was fouled and hit a pair to extend the Spartans’ lead to 45-40 with 18 seconds left.
Kimball led St. Francis with 12 points, McShea added 10 and Zettinger nine.
Schuetz led all scorers with 14. Andujar and Anger added eight each for the Chargers.
“We expected it to be a tight game,” Pisarski said. “We just tried to stay consistent, figuring the most consistent team wins.”
“I knew our guys were going to make a run, with or without Phil,” Drye said. “They are too good of kids not to make a run.We made our run, we just couldn’t sustain it. Our defense was phenomenal tonight. We guarded like crazy.”