Stevenson comes back to outlast Burlington Central
Stevenson's girls basketball team knew what it needed to do to, and the Patriots finally did it.
Trailing Burlington Central 37-31 midway through the fourth quarter of Tuesday's fifth place game at the 32nd Annual Charger Classic Christmas Tournament at Dundee-Crown, Stevenson finally got into the offensive game it prefers, amped up its defense a notch and put together a 12-3 run to end the game and beat the Rockets 43-40.
"We just knew we had to take control of the game, attack the basket and get good shots," said Patriots' senior Taylor Buford, who led all scorers with 18 points, including 7 in the fourth quarter, and was named to the all-tournament team.
Until the fourth quarter both teams struggled to make shots, which was a byproduct of stellar defense on both ends of the floor as much as anything. In fact, each squad finished the game making just 13 of 43 field goal attempts (30.2 percent) with the difference in the end being Stevenson's ability to get to the free throw line and knock down their freebies, something the Patriots do with regularity.
Stevenson finished 16-for-18 from the line, a performance their coach, Tom Dineen, pointed to as one of the deciding factors.
"The first half we did not shoot well," Dineen said. "We defended well, but we did not shoot well. In the second half we attacked the basket better and got to the free-throw line and that's our game."
With each team going just 6-for-23 (26 percent) from the floor in the first half the Rockets (11-2) were able to take a 17-16 lead at the break as juniors Shelby Holt and Sam Pryor each hit 3-pointers in the final 2:51 of the second quarter while Stevenson (14-1) failed to score in the final 4:02 of the first half.
More aggressive play keynoted the second half, with somewhat better shooting. After four ties and five lead changes, it was Burlington Central that finally forged ahead, 37-31, after senior Aly DeTamble hit her second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter with 4:21 left in the game.
But Stevenson turned up the defensive jets, helping Central commit 3 turnovers, all of which the Patriots turned into points on the other end.
First, senior Sophia Way hit 2 free throws at the 3:59 mark to make it 37-33. Then, after a BC turnover, Buford scored in the paint to bring the Pats within 2, 37-35, with 3:28 left.
Burlington was able to play keep-away for a minute but Buford intercepted a pass, went coast-to-coast for a layup, was fouled and made the free throw to give Stevenson the lead for good, 38-37, with 2:25 left.
After yet another BC turnover, sophomore Ashley Richardson made a layup to put the Patriots ahead 40-37. Holt made 1 of 2 free throws at the 1:03 mark to make it 40-38 but Way canned 2 more from the line with 36 seconds left to make it a 42-38 game. Kayla Ross' basket 12 seconds later gave the Rockets hope at 42-40 and when junior Janine Fajardo made 1 of 2 from the line with 13 seconds to go BC had one last chance to tie, but Ross' off balance 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell way short.
"They did a lot of backscreens that pushed us up high and we got stuck behind them," said Buford of the Rockets. "We don't see a lot of that in our conference but that's exactly why we come to this tournament, to see different competition and see things we don't normally see. It was a really good tournament for us and we're excited to come out 3-1. We needed to bounce back from the loss to Evanston (in the quarterfinals)."
Richardson (7 rebounds), who was also named to the all-tournament team, and Fajardo each added 8 points for the Patriots.
"Burlington was much more aggressive than we were and we were playing back on our heels," said Dineen, "but we played well down the stretch, got to the line and hit our free throws. In the first half we were settling for way too many outside shots.
"Burlington is a good quality team. We never see them and didn't know a lot about them but they went downstate last year and I compared them to Vernon Hills in our area. They created some situations that were good for us to see."
Holt, BC's only all-tournament selection, led the Rockets with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, while Ross added 9 points and Pryor 8. BC also had a commanding 39-22 edge on the boards led by 9 from Pryor and 8 from senior Alison Colby.
"(Monday) we showed how to finish a game and today we showed how not to," said Rockets' coach Mark Smith. "We kind of forget sometimes in games like this we're not playing in the Big Northern (Conference). We forced a few things tonight but we did battle. We had the lead, we just didn't finish and I guess now's the time to do that and not regional or sectional time.
"We went 2-2 here again but I feel we accomplished more than last year. The girls are disappointed but we'll get there. You play four good games here and these are great situations to be in. There's a lot of good that came from this tournament."