Conference…Regional…Sectional…STATE!

Chargers girls’ hoops squad makes history, qualifies for state tournament

The Chargers girl's hoopers celebrate their berth downstate.

The Chargers girl’s hoopers celebrate their berth downstate.

Alex Janco, Old School Sports Writer Who's Still Got It

Thanks to a completely dominating performance, for the first time in school history, St. Joseph’s girls’ basketball team is heading downstate.

After capturing the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference White Division championship earlier in the month with a 66-60 win over rival Fenwick, the Chargers have run roughshod through the IHSA Class 2A bracket so far. On Monday night, the Chargers beat (Chicago) Al Raby 63-43 for the Concordia University Supersectional and the right to play for the Class 2A state championship, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Illinois State University.

The Chargers (19-12) came out on fire against Al Raby, opening up a 10-0 lead in the game’s opening minutes thanks to four easy inside baskets from senior Amber Brooks. The Chargers were never threatened from there, maintaining the double-digit lead throughout the rest of the game as they coasted to the championship.

Brooks scored 10 of the Chargers’ first 16 points and wound up with a team-high 18 points in the win, adding a game-high 13 rebounds. Sophomore Maia Marshall added 15 points and senior Elise Estelle added 13 points.

Spreading the wealth for the Chargers was junior point guard Davane Gross, who dished out 10 assists, most of which came on dribble penetration only to hit an open man as the defense collapsed on her.

The Chargers got to this point thanks to winning the U-High Regional with wins over Woodlawn and Tilden. They then won the St. Joseph sectional with wins over Illiana Christian (57-54) and a 36-13 toppling of Westmont.

Gross has matured into one of the best point guards in the area and has kick-started the Chargers offense with her up-tempo play.
“I am overwhelmed with feelings,” Gross said. “I feel that (coach) Drew always has had this goal in mind and he continued to push us and he saw that goal and everything fell in place.”

For some Chargers, they’re following in the footsteps of former Chargers who have already accomplished quite a bit at the school.

“It feels indescribable,” DeAsiah McIntosh said. “I feel like I’m walking in my daddy’s footsteps (her dad Damien McIntosh played for the 1999 boys’ basketball team that won state). I can’t put this into words right now.”

In the sectional final win over Westmont, Estelle led the Chargers with 11 points, with Brooks, Gross and Marshall all pitching in with six. Marshall led the Chargers with 20 points in the conference-championship clinching win over Fenwick, with Estelle adding 19 with Brooks adding 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Chargers now get Teutopolis on Friday at 6:30 at Redbird Arena. A win there would put them in the Class 2A state championship game Saturday night.

“It’s bigger for us because we’re writing history being the first girls’ basketball team from St. Joe’s to go downstate,” said junior guard Alexa Epps, whose tight-checking defense helps thwart any runs the opposition may try to get going. “All the hard work paid for us.”

It’s been a nice run for St. Joseph, which also went unbeaten in the GCAC White tournament, beating Regina, Bishop McNamara and Fenwick for the conference title after only dropping two regular season conference games.

Heading into state, Marshall is the Chargers leading scorer at nearly 17 points per game, with Brooks adding 14 points and eight rebounds per game. Estelle is pitching in with nine points per game while Gross is pacing the offense with six points and five assists per game, to go along with two steals per contest.