JOLIET – After losing a thriller in the final seconds against Cardinal Stritch at Monday’s clash of first-place teams in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the University of St. Francis needed to bounce back in a big way in its next game.
And they got the chance to do that when they met Trinity Christian College in a CCAC home game. While the Trolls have had a tough season, they still put up a good fight for a while against a Saints’ team that entered ranked 15th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II poll.
But St. Francis demonstrated why it has gone 19-7 on the season and 14-3 in conference play, as it received scoring from 11 players with eight collecting six or more points to help coach Steve Brooks’ team to a 74-44 victory at the Pat Sullivan Center.
The Saints moved back into a tie for first place in the CCAC after Cardinal Stritch lost, 90-74, at Olivet Nazarene. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season with USF playing Olivet and St. Ambrose, who are in a three-way tie for third.
“I think that this was a good bounce-back win for us coming out of the loss on Monday. That was hard,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of tears in the locker room after the game, and I was really concerned about how we’d come back. I’m really pleased with the focus they had, and I felt like our ball movement was really good, and that gave the kids the chance to do what they needed to do.
“It was fun to watch, and for our kids I think it was fun because everybody on that team works so hard every day. The bench doesn’t always get as many minutes, and so tonight with everyone getting to play extended minutes, it was a major lift.”
After the Saints grabbed an 8-0 lead, the Trolls used two 3-pointers from Breanna Toppen (20 points, six rebounds) to make it 11-all late in the first quarter. But USF responded with a 10-0 run that extended into the second quarter which included two 3-pointers from Leah Sims (11 points) to go up for good, as they built a 37-21 halftime lead.
“I just have to focus and not think about shooting and scoring, and just play my game,” Sims said. “We all play together, and the ball movement was good, so hopefully we’ll keep that up. We just need to come out with an energy burst. We all have fun on and off the court.”
Other leaders for USF were Jordan Pyle (10 points, six blocks), Madi Canady (nine points), Nichole Davidson (seven points, six rebounds), Justene Charlesworth (seven points), Kaitlin Aylward (six points, six rebounds) and Allee Hernandez (six points).
“We came out with a lot of energy, and coming off the loss we really wanted to win the game, so we all came together and played really hard,” Pyle said. “When everyone contributes, it gives us all confidence, and then we play a lot better as a team.”