Slow first quarter. Menacing defense in the second. Olivia Jakubicek in the third and fourth.
It's not how Cary-Grove is starting games, but as the game progresses, the Trojans are proving why it's really how you finish.
They won with that style against Huntley over a week ago and the Trojans repeated that process against a quality opponent in Stevenson
Cary-Grove survived a 3-point first quarter, allowed Stevenson 3 points on 1 basket in the second quarter and figured out the Patriot defense in the second half, which paved the way for Jakubicek to re-establish herself on the block. Her 12 points in the final 16 minutes gave her a game-high 19 to go along with 14 rebounds in Cary-Grove's 39-28 nonconference win over the Patriots in Cary Wednesday night.
The Trojans (16-6) pushed their win streak to 7, whereas Stevenson's streak ended at 5.
"I don't know if it's just us," Trojans coach Rod Saffert said. "It takes us a little while to get going. I do think its part of the conditioning we've done for months. When we get to that third quarter, we seem to wear some teams down. It really seems to affect them and it helps us."
Both teams looked sluggish during the first half, and the numbers were a bit shocking for two well-oiled machines. Cary-Grove led 15-11 at the half, but turnovers by both exceeded the score. Cary-Grove turned the ball over 12 times on 6 of 23 shooting whereas Stevenson (14-8) coughed it up 15 times while making just 4 of 13 from the field, including just 1 shot on 3 attempts in the second quarter. Both teams ran all sorts of defenses at each other, but what did Cary-Grove change up in the second half to establish Jakubicek down low?
"We started recognizing what defense they were in," said Jakubicek. "They were switching between man and zone. Once we recognized their defense we made sure we got the ball moving and we got the best possible shot that we could."
Although the Patriots won the third quarter 9-8, Jakubicek was far more effective. She scored on 2-straight possessions after her teammates fed her on the right block to put Cary-Grove ahead 19-13 with 4:40 remaining.
Stevenson managed a 7-1 run soon after and Taylor Buford, who led the Patriots with 8 points and 6 steals, capped it with a steal and layup to knot it at 20 with 1:42 left.
Cary-Grove answered immediately with a Kylie Smith 3-pointer from the right corner and went right back to Jakubicek in the fourth.
Jakubicek picked off a pass at midcourt and went the distance for a 27-23 lead with 5:20 to go. On the next Cary-Grove possession, Jakubicek, from the right block, managed an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it 30-23 Trojans with 4:49 remaining. Jakubicek, who had 6 steals as well, scored 7 of the Trojans' first 9 points of the fourth and Joslyn Nicholson's 16-footer and layup with under 3 minutes to play staved off a late rally by Stevenson, which shot 10 of 27 from the field and committed 25 turnovers.
"It seemed every point we got, we struggled for," Patriots coach Tom Dineen said. "And then we gave up way too many easy ones and we didn't do a real good job on Olivia tonight."
Stevenson was outrebounded 25-14. While Cary-Grove shot worse at a 35 percent clip, its defense seemed to really frustrate the Patriots throughout.
"They're good at passing," Nicholson said. "And we needed to stop their drives, their passes down low. We were running our 2-1-2 and we didn't really see that pass, but we knew we had to stop that."
Sophia Way chipped in 7 points and 2 steals for Stevenson.