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Winkler, St. Francis earn first victory
By Bill Stone | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 12/1/2012 12:43 AM | Updated: 12/1/2012 12:43 AM

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Junior Abby Winkler lists herself at 5-foot-8, basically the same height as her starting teammates on the St. Francis girls basketball team.

While that might mean the Spartans could be equally good at rebounding, it’s become Winkler’s thing.

“I love rebounding, so I always try to work hard and get in there as much as I can and get those rebounds for my team, get second chances,” Winkler said. “I want to go for double digits, but I try to get at least seven a game.”

On Friday Winkler’s 11 rebounds resulted in a big payoff. The Spartans earned their first victory by beating rival Wheaton Academy 47-30 in a Suburban Christian Conference crossover in West Chicago.

St. Francis (1-6) trailed 15-12 with 3:33 left in the second quarter before scoring the next 18 points to pull ahead 30-15 in the final minute of the third quarter.

The Warriors (1-5) made two free throws with 28.9 seconds left to enter the fourth quarter down 13 points. They came as close as 10 in the final four minutes.

Was this victory sweet? The Spartans even received a trophy for it.

The Wheaton Cup is a first-year traveling trophy given to the winning team when the schools meet head-to-head in team sports.

“I was a little confused at first, but it’s really awesome to have something tangible to bring back, saying that we won,” Winkler said.

Winkler collected a double-double by adding 14 points. Senior Kate Slattery had 17 points with two 3-pointers, and Sophia Koslowski grabbed 12 rebounds with 7 points.

St. Francis outrebounded the Warriors 51-34 with 21 on the offensive end.

“We made a focus of rebounding better, coming out more prepared,” St. Francis coach Mike Phillips said. “Tonight we came out with a good effort from the beginning and it showed, and at the end. We ended with a win.”

The Spartans’ early switch from a man-to-man to a 2-3 zone defense also made a difference. The Warriors’ Kat Maret had 17 points with four 3s, but 11 points came in the final period.

“The ball just wouldn’t go down for us. And then I think we lost our intensity on the defensive end. We got a little frustrated because we couldn’t score,” Wheaton Academy coach Beth Mitchell said. “I think the way we came out in the first half really speaks a lot to the character of this team. Now it’s just a matter of really trying to play four quarters.”

St. Francis lost recently at Immaculate Conception 46-43 in overtime after the Knights forced OT with nine seconds left in regulation.

“It’s the best feeling, especially after having such a losing streak,” Slattery said. “It feels great to win, especially get a trophy for it.”