After five tough games at Schaumburg's Thanksgiving tournament, Stevenson's girls basketball team seems to have found its go-to-player.
Stevenson junior Taylor Buford may not dunk the ball just, yet but she does plenty of other things for the 3-2 Patriots.
Like take the ball to the hoop, and rebound. On Friday afternoon, she had a double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds) as the Pats clinched a winning record in this competitive tournament by topping the host Saxons 62-54.
Coach Tom Dineen's team does not have any 6-footers on the roster. So the 5-10 Buford and 5-11 junior Melanie Despinich will have to do.
Schaumburg countered with 6-foot-2 Tatiana Doroskin and five girls 5-10 and taller.
"It was a physical game,'' Buford said. "She (Doroskin) was really big. But we fought through it. We are tough."
Buford opened the contest on Friday with 6 quick points. That included two free throws, a rebound bucket and a steal and a hoop.
Graduation hit the Pats hard but Buford is pleased with her teammates.
"I love this team to death,'' she said.
She also felt this tourney helped her team find their roles.
"We needed to figure that out,'' she said. "I'm a rebounder and need to keep on attacking."
With Buford's inside work and the 3-point shooting of sophomore Jessica Burke, the Pats opened up a 19-10 first quarter lead.
The lead stayed in double figures in the first half --and then the winless Saxons began to click offensively. Nina Nykaza's drive to the hoop cut the Stevenson lead to 40-34 late in the third quarter.
The Saxons' first-year head coach is Curtis Goodwin. He has ties to the North Suburban Conference as a former guard at Libertyville.
"Nina came to play today,'' Goodwin said. "This is a great place to be. Our girls need to learn from this experience and get better."
Buford answered the Schaumburg run with 8 straight points in the fourth quarter for her Patriots. Still, Goodwin's Saxons did not go away quietly.
Lillian Chavarria landed a 3-pointer, cutting the Patriots' lead to 56-50 with less than four minutes to play.
Despinich answered back with a 3-pointer of her own, giving the Pats some breathing room.
"Stevenson is a classy program,'' Goodwin said. "They are very well coached."
Dineen was happy with his club's performance in this tourney.
"We are not a finished product,'' Dineen said. "And we are not the biggest team around. But this tournament has prepared us for our conference season."
Buford's 20-point day was backed up by teammate Sophia Way's 13 points. Both made the all-tournament team at Schaumburg.
Brittany Reinhart (9 points) was Schaumburg's all-tourney selection. Nykaza paced the Saxons on Friday with 13 points.