St. Francis rallies from big deficit, beats IC Catholic Prep in OT

Finally playing at home after 10 straight road games to begin the season, St. Francis had a first half to forget Tuesday night.

That set the stage for a comeback the Spartans won't want to forget.

Overcoming a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter, St. Francis stormed back to defeat IC Catholic Prep 48-42 in overtime.

In staying undefeated in the Metro Suburban Conference, the Spartans (9-2, 5-0) spoiled an outstanding individual effort by Lady Knights senior Claire Wagner, who finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

"This was absolutely incredible," said senior guard Lauren Bruce, who topped the home team with 17 points, including the first five of the extra session. "We did not get down, we knew we could come back. We've got great team chemistry. I'm proud of our team and how well we work together.

"We were looking for the open person (during the comeback), nobody was selfish in the game. That's what got us the win. And we had a positive attitude the whole game."

Closing to within 33-20 heading into the final quarter, St. Francis then went on a 18-4 run, taking its first lead since early in the game after back-to-back 3-pointers from Bruce and Dolly Smith. But Wagner's free throw with 45 seconds left knotted the score at 38-apiece and sent it into overtime.

Bruce's trifecta gave St. Francis the lead for good at 43-40 and after another Wagner basket, Tristan Grosam made a 3-pointer to build a slight cushion. Grosam scored 10 points off the bench, including a near half-court shot to beat the halftime buzzer, which were her team's only points of the second quarter.

After connecting on only 3-of-16 attempts from beyond the arc in the first three quarters, the Spartans made five 3-pointers in the fourth and overtime.

"This shows we are really an amazing group," Grosam said. "I think some people underestimate us. But I feel like we are going to show up this season. Everyone is working well together, we have a great team bond.

"Everybody stayed positive coming out of halftime. We knew we could pull through."

Defense also played a major role in the reversal of fortunes as St. Francis forced 29 turnovers in the game, 18 coming after intermission. Smith totaled five steals to go along with 10 points, Katherine Lilly had six points and Katie Anne De Craene contributed five points, eight rebounds and three steals.

"That three right before half, that gave us a little momentum," said St. Francis coach Jeff Gerdeman, whose team's only losses have come by a combined eight points to Wheaton North and Sandburg. "We switched to a man defense and the girls got after it. They worked hard and we forced some turnovers.

"Claire is a phenomenal player, give her credit, but I thought we were able to shut down everyone else in the second half. In the first half we struggled offensively but our defense kept us in the game. In the second half and overtime, we hit some shots. They will remember this comeback for a long time."

ICCP (7-5, 3-2) jumped out to a four-point lead after the opening quarter and then used a 13-0 spurt to go up 22-5. Wagner knocked down a pair of threes during that run while Allie Geiger had an offensive rebound and basket. Geiger tallied seven points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.

The Lady Knights forced 11 Spartans turnovers in the first half.

"First of all, that defense we played in the first half was some of the best defense I've seen in a long time," ICCP coach Todd Fisher said. "In the second half, give credit to Jeff and St. Francis. The shots they didn't knock down in the first half, they knocked down in the second half. Give their kids credit for knocking down open shots.

"And secondly, obviously we have to do a better job taking care of the ball. But again, give credit to them. They stepped up their full court pressure and we had a hard time with it."

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