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A former Stevenson girls basketball captain sat in her alma mater's gymnasium bleachers Thursday night.
And the impact Katie Batman had on the 2011-12 Patriots wasn't lost on a then-freshman who was also on varsity that season.
"She taught me how to be a leader," Stevenson junior guard Taylor Buford said after helping the Patriots capture a 52-31 decision over visiting Libertyville that hiked their record to 13-5 and 6-1 in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division.
"(She said) if I have a bad face, (my teammates) are going to have a bad face."
So when the second half started Thursday night, with Buford sitting on the bench, the three-year varsity player put on a happy face. She had picked up her third foul -- "75 feet away from the basket," as Patriots coach Tom Dineen noted -- late in the first half.
Buford sat the entire third quarter. Not that it was a benching, per se, as the Patriots enjoyed a 12-point lead at the break and never saw their lead dip into single digits in the third.
"We'd like to see her finish a little more," said Dineen, who was talking with Buford on the bench just before the second half started. "We're trying to get her to be a little more under control as she nears the basket -- smaller steps, better angles. I thought she did that early on, and then she had a little bit of a lapse."
During the third quarter, Buford focused on being the kind of leader that Batman taught her to be. Dana Morgan started the second half, and the sweet-shooting senior knocked down a 3-pointer in helping the Patriots outscore the Wildcats 10-7 in the third.
"In the third quarter, I just knew that since I wasn't playing, I was going to cheer on my teammates," Buford said. "They stepped up. Dana Morgan went in and she was a beast in the post. She was getting rebounds, she was looking for her shot, and she looked like a million bucks."
Buford started the fourth quarter and her fresh legs were evident almost immediately. In the first 40 seconds, she snagged an offensive rebound and then hit a shot in the lane. She later went end to end, grabbing a defensive board and finishing with a layup.
Buford finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
"I thought we got some real good minutes out of Dana in Taylor's absence in that third quarter, and then Taylor came back in and played well in that fourth quarter," Dineen said. "She's a very, very good player, very athletic. We're trying to have her get better."
Sophia Way and Buford helped Stevenson jump out to a 10-0 lead. The Patriots were up 17-6 at the end of the first quarter, as Way and Buford scored 10 and 5 points, respectively. Way hit all 3 of her shots and finished 6 of 9 from the floor (2 of 3 from beyond the arc). She also went 5 of 6 from the foul line, finishing with a game-high 19 points.
"She's proven to be our best three-point shooter so far this season," Dineen said of Way, who like Buford, played varsity as a freshman two years ago. "We like to see that ball go down a couple of times early because I think the kids relax a little bit."
Libertyville (6-12, 4-3), which was stymied by Stevenson's zone, suffered its sixth straight loss. Rosie Lynch and Claire Keefe scored 7 points apiece for the Wildcats. Lynch, Sydney Mudd and Mary Wilterdink drained 3-pointers.
"Stevenson gets all the credit," Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen said. "They're a good team. They defend well, they can shoot well, and they got athleticism inside. They gave us a lot of problems."
It was the second consecutive game in which the Wildcats did not have a double-digit scorer.
"We need a little bit more of a scoring punch right now," Pedersen said. "We're looking for a kid who can step up for us and knock some shots down. When that happens, I think we'll be OK."