Chaparro hits milestone as St. Francis beats rival

Kate Chaparro wasn't messing around on Saturday night.

Recognizing that she was just 8 points away from becoming a 1,000-point scorer, the St. Francis senior stormed out onto the floor on a mission to join select company and help her team beat its biggest rival, Wheaton Academy.

It didn't take the Aurora resident long to add a comma to her career-point with a strong first half, and the Spartans withstood a couple runs from the Warriors, earning a 43-29 victory in a Metro Suburban crossover.

"It's been on my mind all season and we had forgotten to count the points I had in the postseason," she said. "I wanted to get these points today and we started off quick."

Chaparro's 3-pointer to end the first quarter gave her 999 points and provided the Spartans with an 11-5 lead.

She knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second quarter to become the first St. Francis 1,000-point scorer since Antwainette Walker (2018). Walker is now playing for Marquette.

Wheaton Academy (7-5) stopped the game to honor Chaparro with 7:16 remaining in the first half. She was awarded the game ball and the small crowd applauded her accomplishment, despite it putting the Warriors in a 14-5 hole and helping send them to their first home loss of the season.

"Wheaton Academy was first class all the way," St. Francis coach Jeff Gerdeman said. "They gave her the game ball and they allowed her parents to come today and they don't have visiting fans so give them credit."

Chaparro scored all but two of her 19 points in the first half.

"That was definitely the fastest start I've ever had," she said. "Kudos to my teammates. With them moving the ball around and getting me the ball, we had great teamwork and started off great. It was on my mind, and (my teammates) all knew and I think that kind of helped them get going and why we got the lead."

Fellow senior Maggie Culver was a big presence inside, scoring 12 points, collecting 8 rebounds and sharing in the special moment of one of her best friends.

"I told her we're going to get you the ball because it's a big milestone," Culver said. "I'm proud of her. I'm like living vicariously through her. I'm so happy for her. It's like we're sharing the feeling."

Dolly Smith (4 points, 5 rebounds) and Amelia Racky (6 points, 5 rebounds) also came up big for the winners.

"Racky had good energy and Dolly Smith had a great second half as a freshman," Gerdeman said. "Kate had a solid game and Maggie Culver was all over the place. And free throws made a big difference."

St. Francis made 14-of-17 free throws while Wheaton Academy was just 1-of-5.

St. Francis (8-5) had a 12-0 run to take a 16-5 lead but Wheaton Academy responded with a 12-1 run to tie the game at 17-17. The Spartans then closed the first half with a 12-0 run to lead 29-17 at halftime.

"I told them at halftime it was the weirdest first half I've ever been a part of," Gerdeman said. "I know we were up, but it didn't have a good taste in mouth. It didn't feel right. I knew we had to come back and keep the pressure up and make some better decisions."

The Warriors closed to within 37-29 on a Payton Collins basket in the fourth quarter but yielding big runs earlier proved to be too difficult to overcome.

"They came back and played hard, and we talked about controlling the things that you can control and that's what they're learning," Warriors coach Brad Byrne said. "We missed a lot of things around the basket."

Jerilyn Blackmon led the Warriors with 12 points while Jillian Paulson added 8 points and Kelly Bickhart had 7 points and 7 rebounds.

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