St. Francis can’t catch up to Hyde Park

Time simply ran out on St. Francis and its 2023-2024 season.

The Spartans’ valiant comeback fell short as No. 4-seeded Hyde Park held on for a 57-53 win in the Class 3A St. Francis regional final in Wheaton Friday night.

The Thunderbirds (21-8) advance to the Hinsdale South sectional to play Mt. Carmel at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Caravan cruised past Bogan 82-58. St. Francis, the sixth seed, ended the season at 18-13.

Trailing 49-40 with 1:35 left, the Spartans were propelled by 3-pointers from Dylan Stron and Aaron Cook and pulled within 51-48 with 55 seconds left.

The Thunderbirds made 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in the last 50 seconds to seal the regional championship.

“These kids will never give up,” St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer said. “The seniors’ freshman year was a COVID year and they played 12 games with masks on. This is a great group of kids.”

The Thunderbirds’ efficiency from the 3-point arc keyed the victory.

Hyde Park connected on 10 of 18 from 3-point land for 55 percent.

“We knew we were going to have to play at a slower pace than we wanted to,” said Hyde Park coach Jerel Oliver. “St. Francis was taking 60 to 70 seconds a possession. We were able to get some open 3s and the kids made good decisions. I am very proud of our guys, We beat a very good St. Francis team on their court.”

Hyde Park’s Jarrell Baldwin led the 3-point barrage with a 4-for-6 effort from beyond the arc and 18 points.

“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball in good position to score,” Baldwin said. “We trusted the coaches and executed their game plan.”

CJ Thomas fueled the winners with 14 points, and Germaine Benson scored 10 with a pair of 3s.

Stron led the Spartans with 14 points. Niko Quaranta scored 12 and Gavin Mueller muscled his way to 10 points along with 12 rebounds and 4 assists.

“Give credit to Hyde Park, they have some studs and some dynamic difference makers,” Dwyer said. “We played a great schedule with 10 Top 25 teams, and the Catholic League is so tough. The kids responded and had a great season.”

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