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It was apparent from the opening tipoff that St. Francis de Sales wasn’t going to lose by lack of effort in a Class 2A Seton Sectional semifinal against conference foe Mount Assisi.
The scrappy Pioneers left it all on the court and were rewarded with a 55-45 win over the Eagles. They’ll advance to Thursday’s final against Seton, who they lost to in the GCAC tournament recently but defeated in the regular season.
“We made the game harder tonight than it should have been -- defense wins games,” St. Francis de Sales senior Tyler Brown-Henderson said. “We have to believe in ourselves and play defense if we want to win [against Seton].”
Leading the way in the hustle department for the Pioneers (14-13) was Brown-Henderson, who seemed to have a nose for the ball the entire night. She finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, despite being the center of attention for the Eagles most of the night.
“I told [Brown-Henderson] she is the player of the year on our conference and teams are going to come at her,” St. Francis de Sales coach Terrence Streater said. “She is just going to have to adjust.”
Senior Franchessca Gill came off the bench and provided an immediate spark for the Pioneers, grabbing a rebound and converting it into a basket in the second quarter just seconds after she entered the game. She finished with 13 points. Sharese Scott added 11 points while sophomore Alanna Slaughter, daughter of Young boys coach Tyrone Slaughter, had four steals to go with two free throws.
“I told the girls this is the playoffs and you have to play hard,” Streater said. “We’ll go as far as our defense will take us. Free throws? Man, we were terrible on free throws tonight.”
The Pioneers were 26-for-46 from the line but made up for that with 12 steals.
With the score tied at 19-19, the Pioneers ended the second quarter with an 8-2 run for a 27-21 halftime lead. The Eagles (6-26) scored the first basket of the third quarter, but the Pioneers responded with a 12-2 run to take command at 39-25. They led by at least nine the rest of the way.
May Kate Wetzel came off the bench and led the Eagles with 13 points, while Terri Dearth added 10.