Tom Dineen made his point.
Midway through the second quarter of Friday night's North Suburban Lake Division showdown at Mundelein, Stevenson's girls basketball coach convinced the referee to take a foul away from Patriots point guard Ashley Richardson.
It would have been the fourth foul for the talented freshman, who, nonetheless, took a seat on the bench.
The Patriots then made their point.
They failed to fold with their primary ballhandler out of the game, instead seizing control of a tight contest en route to a must-have, 59-44 win that kept the Patriots tied atop the NSC Lake standings with Zion-Benton.
"Ashley's a really big part of our team, and she's a really good point guard," said Stevenson sophomore guard Janine Fajardo, who had 9 points and 5 steals, and took a pair of charges. "When she's not on the court, our speed changes. There's a point when everyone needs to step up -- not individually, but as a team. We need communication. Once that builds up, everyone is energized and we just fire up."
Sophia Way led Stevenson (18-7, 9-1) with a game-high 20 points, hitting 6 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep Mundelein (16-7, 6-4) from getting no closer than nine. Taylor Buford added 15 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots for the Patriots, who won their third in a row.
Jamie Hemmer and Lauren Rouse scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Mundelein, which lost for only the second time in its last 13 games.
"Trust me, I was very concerned," Dineen said. "I like Brian (Evans, Mundelein's coach) a lot. He does a good job with his kids. But I don't like playing him. His kids always play hard, and tonight was no exception."
Mundelein, which was within six late in the third quarter, was a different team than the one Stevenson beat by 25 points just before Christmas.
"I think they were just more aggressive," Way said of the Mustangs. "They definitely had our number for this game. They wanted to come out and give us a run for our money. They were much more intense on defense. They were really up in our face, trying to tip the ball and get some steals. Sometimes they were successful, but I think our composure showed tonight."
Mundelein committed 24 turnovers.
"The team was very disappointed about the loss," said Rouse, who shot 4 of 7 from the floor with two 3-pointers. "Because we've been winning so much, I think our expectations are so high. It was just unfortunate."
Richardson picked up her third foul two minutes into the second quarter, but stayed in the game. Then when Rouse was bumped less than two minutes later, the official originally called Richardson with the foul. Rouse hit both free throws to tie the score at 15-15. Way and Rouse then exchanged 3-pointers, before Way's left-corner shot started Stevenson on a 9-0 run to close the half with the visitors up 27-18.
"I think they just got on a run and we just lost focus a little bit," Rouse said. "We can't lose focus against good teams like this."
With Richardson sitting on the bench, Dineen turned to Way and Jessica Burke to handle the ball. Dana Morgan, who replaced Richardson on the floor, hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter in helping the Patriots outscore the Mustangs 18-12.
"I thought Dana came off the bench and really played well for us," Dineen said. "As I told the kids, it was a good team win tonight."
Two free throws by Hemmer had Mundelein within 36-30 with 2:34 left in the third, but Fajardo's 3-pointer jump-started a 9-0 run by Stevenson to close the third.
The Patriots shot 19 of 21 from the foul line. Richardson, despite playing only about half the game, finished with 9 points, going 4 of 4 from the line in the fourth.
"I think it just comes down to hitting our shots," Way said. "Normally we come out and we're hitting right off the bat. I think it's because we normally get a real good warm-up in. But tonight (the shots) just weren't falling in the first (quarter). We just kept shooting, kept attacking."