St. Francis D in midseason form in win over Rosary

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then St. Francis girls basketball coach Jeff Gerdeman may want to send a bouquet of roses or at least a gift card to a cross-town school.

Utilizing an active zone defense, the Spartans (7-3) made things difficult for Rosary during their nonconference game Saturday afternoon in Aurora.

Pressuring the Royals (1-8) into 24 turnovers, St. Francis cruised to a 38-20 victory behind a game-high 14 points from sophomore Riley Austin.

"It's something that we stole from other teams in the area," Gerdeman said of the zone defense. "It's Wheaton (Warrenville) South's ball pressure defense. We like it. We're long and athletic and think we can give teams some fits."

Austin, a 5-foot-9 guard/forward, scored 8 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, during the Spartans' 18-5 first-quarter surge that also included forcing Rosary into 9 turnovers. "She's a phenomenal addition to our team," Gerdeman said of Austin, who finished with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. "She's long and athletic. Pair her with Katherine Lilly and we can cause some fits on defense.

"Riley can hit the three and she has really stepped up her ability to drive to the basket."

St. Francis held the Royals scoreless for nearly 6 ½ minutes to start the second quarter before Alex Kackert hit a jumper to close the halftime gap to 18-7.

Sophomore Tea Rubino (10 points, 4 rebounds) knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, accounting for the Spartans' 6-point second quarter.

"We are young," said Gerdeman. "We lost three seniors from last year, but Riley (Austin) has stepped right in, and Tea (Rubino) has stepped right in."

The Royals responded with a 7-2 run late in the third quarter to close the deficit to 24-14 following a 3-pointer from sophomore Karyna Brol, but the Spartans regained the momentum with 6 unanswered points, capped by Austin's deep 3-pointer at the buzzer off a feed from junior guard Dolly Smith (3 assists, 3 steals).

St. Francis led 30-14 heading into the fourth quarter and finished the game with 19 steals - 4 from Lilly and 3 from junior guard Natalie Doyle (5 points, 5 rebounds).

"If we're going to turn over the ball, that's one thing but the turnovers that turned into transition points is what killed us," said Rosary coach Emily Duckhorn. "It's kind of the way our season has gone. We put the ball into our defenders' hands, and they run with it.

"When we do things, we don't do them confidently. The ball is our friend and sometimes we don't believe that. We're just inexperienced. As the season goes on, it'll get better, and it has gotten better from the first game."

Senior guard Brooke Pfeiffer led the Royals with 9 points - all on 3-pointers.

"They did get five 3s," said Gerdeman. "We wanted to close out on their shooters, and for the most part, we did a good job."

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