DEKALB — St. Francis de Sales couldn’t get past its first quarter performance against Forreston in the Class 1A DeKalb Supersectional at Northern Illinois University.
The Pioneers shot 8.2 percent during that span and dug themselves a 13-point deficit.
It was hardly the start the Pioneers were hoping for after making their first Elite Eight appearance since 1997. There wasn’t an Eric Anderson (1988 star on Class AA runners-up) or a Sean Lampley (1997 star on state semifinalists) to come to the rescue.
The Cardinals were steady and more poised during their 67-53 win, advancing to state for the first time in program history. For the Pioneers (14-15), who went through six coaches last season and forfeited several games, the fact they put the pieces back together so quickly was bigger than the victory that evaded them on Tuesday.
“It was satisfying to the fact that we won our first regional in 15 years and first sectional in 17 years,” said St. Francis de Sales coach Kevin Wolfe, who is in the first season of his second tour of duty at the school. “To get to this spot right here was very vindicating.
“The prior administration was let go and one of the last things was we were never going to take the program to the next step. I went out and got really good assistant coaches and there was a buzz and excitement again.”
Jeremy Greenlee (four points) recorded the only points in the first quarter for the Pioneers, who trailed 15-2. Tyler Streeter got the Pioneers back in the game in the second, scoring six of his 19 points during a 9-4 run that closed the gap to 25-20 with 1:40 left.
Following a timeout by the Cardinals (26-5), the lead returned to double-digits after an 8-0 run on three-pointers by Ethan Groom (eight points) and Nathan Schneiderman (nine points).
“I told them to just relax and get back to us — we got away from just being us and fundamentally sound,” said Forreston coach Travis Ross of his timeout speech. “They were making us play fast and uptempo — they do a nice job of that.”
Matt Kerchner and Robert DeVries kept the Pioneers at bay by continually breaking the press and scoring. DeVries, the quarterback on the state title football team, sparked the first quarter by scoring seven of his 15 points. Kerchner scored at least four points in every quarter, finishing with a team-high 23 points.
Streeter, who was the leading scorer in the Catholic league averaging 25.5 points a game, didn’t think he would ever play in a Pioneer uniform again after last season.
“I was a hundred percent gone,” Streeter said. “Last year was very tough for us and I didn’t even want to play anymore. As soon as I heard coach Wolfe was back I said ‘okay, we are going to make a run’.
He is a great coach and treats us like family — he’s like a father figure to me. He makes you want to be better.”