Wilmette, Sports

Regina Dominican basketball earns third state trophy in program history

The newest chapter in Regina Dominican’s rich basketball story came to an end Thursday, when the Panthers gripped a fourth-place trophy at the IHSA Class 2A state championships.

The Panthers began its state trek with a loss to eventual state champ Peoria Notre Dame before falling to southeast Illinois’ Robinson, 51-44, in the third-place game just a few hours later.

Regina Dominican ended the season with 25 victories, tied for the second most in school history, and regional, sectional and supersectional championships. The fourth-place finish was the Panthers first state trophy since 2003 and third overall.

“They don’t like to lose … (but) I always tell them it’s so hard to win a regional, a sectional,” Regina coach Bob Newton said following the finals appearance. “There is absolutely no shame in coming home with a fourth-place trophy. Only one team has a fourth-place trophy and that’s us. It’s an accomplishment.”

In the third-place game, Regina was led by sophomore Jillian DeFranza, who scored 14 points to go with 7 rebounds. Fellow soph Olivia Fraterrigo added 12 points (4-of-7 from floor), 7 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals, and senior Maddie Witchger added 7 points.

Jillian DeFranza releases a three-point attempt for the Panthers in a consolation game in the state finals.

The Panthers had a halftime lead, 24-21, on Robinson, but Newton said his team “fought hard” but “ran out of gas.”

In the opener, Peoria Notre Dame dominated from wire to wire, just as the former 3A program has against most 2A teams, en route to a 71-25 victory.

The Panthers got 8 points apiece from Fraterrigo and Payton Olszewski. Fraterrigo added 7 rebounds.

Regina Dominican is a smaller Wilmette school that often has been a contender on the basketball court. The Panthers were a perennial power in the 1970s and ’80s, winning three straight sectionals from ’83-’85.

As girls basketball expanded, and other local programs, such as Loyola Academy, emerged, sustained success became more difficult at Regina. But the Panthers remained regular threats and consistently tallied 15 wins or more a season.

Over the past three years, Regina has averaged 20 wins a season and won three straight regionals for the first time since the ’80s. And they are just getting started.

The Regina Panthers with their fourth-place state trophy Thursday, Feb. 29, in Normal.

Olszewski and Witchger were the only seniors on Regina’s roster, which was paced by three sophomores: guard DeFranza, guard Cerrado and forward Fraterrigo. Freshman wing Judy Fabianski and sophomore forward Anna O’Connor also played big roles in Regina’s rotation, and the roster contained three more freshmen: Catherine Conway, Bridget Conway and Grace Byrne; and two juniors: Gem Lucero and Sarah Anichini.

Newton said his players learned plenty during the successful campaign and state appearance.

“The biggest takeaway is the kids know they can compete,” he said, later adding, “I think they see what the next step is, that we can get better, get a bit quicker, stronger. We can’t get bigger, but we can get faster and stronger.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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