Talk about getting the girls basketball season off to a fast start.
Just speak with Klaire Steffens.
The 6-foot Stevenson senior scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 20 points and 16 rebounds as the Patriots began the Schaumburg Thanksgiving tournament with a 47-28 victory over St. Viator on Tuesday night.
"I don't know if I've ever scored that many points in one quarter," Steffens said when asked. "Obviously, I had a height advantage and tired to take advantage. And my teammates did a great feeding me with great passes that I was able to work with."
As a senior leader this season, Steffens wanted to talk more about the Patriot's successful opener after graduating two all-area players (Madison Wicklund and Ashley Richardson, who scored nearly 1,500 points as a four-year starter).
"We obviously lost some incredibly talented players through graduation," Steffens said. "I've been able to take on more of a leadership role as well as other players so it's exciting. As coach (Ashley) Graham said, I think we all have pretty unselfish mind sets and that helps our chemistry."
The Patriots were clicking Tuesday, especially in the second half when they were able to pull away to 37-19 lead when 5-foot-11 senior Isabella Paldrmic hit a 3-pointer with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
Paldrmic and junior teammate Krissy Hill (4 rebounds) each finished with 8 points while 5-11 sophomore Avery King added 6.
Paldrmic also drew the defensive assignment on St. Louis-bound Myia Clark (5 points, 3 rebounds) who sat out the second quarter due to three fouls.
"Izzie is so long and athletic," Graham said. "She often guarded the other team's best player last season and she has really grown as a person and a player. That's her role and she has embraced it. She did an excellent job on an excellent player."
A 15-pointer by junior guard Elise Horbach got Viator to within 10-7 and her 3-pointer cut the deficit to 12-10 before driving bank shots by Hill and Steffens gave the Patriots a 16-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
Stevenson scored the final 6 points of the first half, including a buzzer beating rebound back shot by Steffens, to lead 28-16.
"We knew (Steffens) would be their primary scorer," said Lions coach Jason Raymond. "However, we didn't have quite the right matchups, especially down low. We made adjustments in the second quarter. We started double teaming the post more.
"She scored a ton early and I think we slowed her down as the game went on. But she was able to kick it out later and that got them 3-point and jump-shot opportunities. But we did a better job as the game went on."
Haley Robinson chipped in 6 points and 2 rebounds for Viator while Michaela Mueller and Katie Krzoska each had 3 rebounds. Olivia Solimene handed out 2 assists.
Raymond said the Lions were missing their No. 4 and 5 starters. Carrie Leazer has been nursing a foot injury and is not yet at full strength. Bridget DeZellar, who underwent ACL surgery last season, tweaked her ankle toward the end of practice on Monday so she did not play Tuesday.
"That made it difficult, especially down low," Raymond said. "But I thought our kids battled hard with the game plan. We definitely have a long ways to go in areas of the basketball game, and not just on the floor."
Richardson did a lot on the floor for Stevenson the last four years but the Patriots are ready to move forward.
"We don't look at it as who who's going to replace Ashley," Graham said. "I thought Kiana (Cencula) did an excellent job handling the ball. It showed that she's a four-year varsity starter.
"It's not easy figuring out how we are going to replace Ashley but I thought we did a nice job collectively of figuring that out tonight. The ball movement was great and the girls played with great unselfishness."