St. Francis getting better at both ends

Missing four-year starting point guard Kate Chaparro to start the season wasn't how St. Francis coach Jeff Gerdeman envisioned the season going.

Not that anyone saw a season like this coming.

But those five games without Chaparro ended up giving some valuable minutes to her teammates, and now with the senior back in the lineup the Spartans are playing their best basketball. They improved to 6-2 with a win over Ridgewood on Monday.

"We miss her but it was a blessing in that we had a freshman Dolly Smith and sophomore Katherine Lilly, it gave them some extra minutes," Gerdeman said. "We have some girls coming off the bench who had a chance to start. We were getting in 10, 11 players every game."

Chaparro leads the team in scoring at 14 points a game while grabbing 5 rebounds, senior guard Maggie Culver is averaging 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists, and junior forward Katie Anne De Craene adds 10 points and 5 rebounds a game.

Missing those five games didn't help but after scoring 13 points against Ridgewood, Chaparro is at 889 in her career. With 8 games to go, she'll need to average 13.9 to reach 1,000.

Chaparro's return has made a difference on both ends of the court. The Spartans are holding opponents to under 34 points a game while the offense is starting to move the ball better and find open teammates.

"We've really stepped it up the last two games defensively," Gerdeman said. "Maggie had a rough start in her mind to the season but she's kind of using her defensive intensity to get her offensive game going again. Katie has been our most solid all-around player all year long."

It's good things are starting to click for the Spartans because they have two of their toughest games coming up: Timothy Christian on Saturday and Aurora Christian next Thursday.

"They will present a challenge," Gerdeman said. "Hopefully we can give them a tough game. We're not big so we have to overcome the size advantage they have. They are very well coached. They are good passing teams. And they will pressure us as well."

Surprise, surprise:

Wheaton Warrenville South's victory Saturday over a Wheaton North team that returned all five starters turned some heads around the DuKane Conference. The Tigers entered the game winless in the DuKane.

The Falcons are the only team to beat conference-leading St. Charles North but the loss to the Tigers leaves them a game back of the North Stars halfway through the season.

"It's been a wild year with some of the games that have gone on," North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. "We say the same thing - St. Charles East and St. Charles North, if one team is 0-20 and the other is 20-0, it's still going to be a fight. Wheaton Warrenville South has some younger players who are getting more physical, more aggressive. That was a surprising outcome but rivalry games have a tendency to be that way.

"I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better conference for girls basketball in Illinois top to bottom. Even teams that have maybe traditionally struggled a little bit have an infusion of new players. There are no nights off."

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