In the season of giving, Sophia Way might have been giving too much.
So Stevenson coach Tom Dineen had a talk with his veteran junior before the Patriots' game against Mundelein last week.
"She's been trying to do a little too much," Dineen said. "I told her, 'Just go play. Have fun. It's high school basketball.' She was trying to be the assistant coach, the cheerleader, the team mom, the captain."
In Stevenson's first contest in Dundee-Crown's Charger Classic since 2006, Way was the game's leading scorer and best player on the floor. The sweet-shooting guard dropped in 13 of her 23 points in the opening quarter, as the Patriots bolted to an early lead and never trailed, pulling away for a 68-46 win over Maine South on Thursday.
The Hawks (8-8) are the defending tournament champions.
"Oh, really? I didn't know that," Ashley Richardson, Stevenson's unflappable freshman point guard, said with a smile. "I just come out here and play."
Led by Way and Richardson, who added 14 points, Stevenson (8-4) advanced to play Prospect at 5 p.m. today. The Knights are coached by former Dineen player and assistant Ashley (Sandstead) Graham.
Way, whose point total was 1 off her season high, had scored just 25 points in Stevenson's last four games. She shot 7 of 11 from the floor with four 3-pointers and grabbed 7 rebounds.
"I wasn't scoring as much, but I was doing other things to contribute," Way said. "I was trying to get the other girls involved and really work on my defense. I think what (Dineen) was trying to tell me was just to relax, go out and stop thinking too much."
Three-pointers by Janine Fajardo (7 points) and Way staked Stevenson to a 6-0 lead. Way hit four 3s in helping the Patriots build a 20-12 advantage after one quarter.
"We came out hard," Way said. "We were hitting our shots and, most importantly, everyone was trying to get everybody involved. It was a great team effort. With the energy we had, we fed off each other from the start."
Richardson's 3-pointer, off Way's third assist of the third quarter, stretched Stevenson's lead to 46-34, and the Patriots took that advantage into the fourth. Starting her seventh straight game, the 5-foot-6 Richardson also hustled for 6 rebounds. It was the third game in a row in which she scored in double figures. She was 5-of-8 shooting with two 3s.
"She plays like a senior," Dineen said. "She doesn't make mistakes, and she can shoot the ball real well."
"It's all the team helping me get double digits," Richardson said. "I just really like playing point guard. I've played the position ever since I was little. The team has helped me grow playing point guard."
Maine South received 13 points from Nina Anderson and 11 from Sam Fagenholz, each of whom hit three 3s.
Stevenson also got a boost from 5-11 Melanie Despinich, who came off the bench to score all 9 of her points (off three 3s) in the second half. When Dana Morgan splashed a shot from beyond the arc late in the game, it gave Stevenson 11 3-pointers.
"I thought it was probably our best ballgame of the year at both ends of the court," Dineen said. "(Maine South) is a good team, and we did a lot of good things. We defended well, rebounded well, shot the ball very well and were very unselfish."