St. Francis Matt Bonner reacts to committing his fifth foul near the end of the game against Bartonville Limestone Tuesday in the 3A Dekalb supersectional game at the Northern Illinois Convocation Center.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
DEKALB St. Francis coach Bob Ward once called them program kids.
No stars, no flash, any among them a potential top scorer any given game. The Spartans all-senior starting five Matt Bonner, Andrew Kimball, Kevin McShea, Jason Pisarski, Tim Zettinger delivered the programs deepest run since a 1989 Final Four berth the old-fashioned way.
Defense. Execution. Never say die. Busting their hump.
As a unit.
That Limestones 55-50 supersectional victory Tuesday in DeKalb ended St. Francis most successful postseason run in 24 years couldnt diminish the feat of a class that played together.
We have five seniors on this team, and thats the thing that made us special, forward McShea said.
We dont have any Division I basketball athletes going off to play in college, he said. None of us are. And who would have thought that we would have made it to the Elite Eight? Not the rankings. But you know what, its our seniority leadership and we just kept with it all year long. We just did our best.
Pisarski, Kimball and Zettinger saw time and even some starts for last seasons St. Francis squad that beat Orr and then Crane to face Marshall in a 2012 sectional final.
The main man then was current Illinois Wesleyan freshman Ryan Coyle. This group was a collective, buying into Wards mantra and role-modeling for juniors such as Killian Brown and Zach Prociuk, sophomore Jason Sullivan.
Were just the definition of a team, Kimball said. Every game we just play together. We all have the leadership abilities to win games.
This was not lost on Limestone coach Eddie Mathews, who by advancing to the Class 3A semifinals against Morgan Park is in a unique position of going downstate as a player (Brimfield, 1979) and as a coach.
(St. Francis) looks like that dad that took them as third-graders and they went to play in this tournament, and as fourth-graders they went and they won a couple tournaments, Mathews said. Its like one of those teams, the kids just know where each other is, they play so well together. Its almost innate, knowing where the balls going to go next.
It was crucial to their success.
It was someone new stepping up every single game, Pisarski said, you never knew who was going to score the most. We dont even know who the leading scorer was.
Character and moxie starts at the top. Luring Ward out of the Wheaton North program to take his first head coaching job in 12 years was nothing less than a coup for St. Francis basketball.
Now he must bid his program kids adieu.
It was an honor to coach these kids, Ward said in his postgame address. Ill never forget this group, never forget this run. But this is the type of group that if we hadnt made a run Id feel the same way. Itd be an honor. Theyre just that good of kids.