Stevenson stays focused, handles Lake Forest
It's difficult staying focused when you have all of the hoopla that usually accompanies senior night.
Except, perhaps, if you're the Stevenson girls basketball team.
In what has been a magical season to this point, the Patriots, who graduate three seniors from their varsity roster, looked anything but distracted in handling Lake Forest 84-56 in the North Suburban Lake regular-season finale Friday night in Lincolnshire.
"We haven't played very well in the first quarter on our home court," sixth-year Pats coach Tom Dineen said of his club, which sewed up the Lake Division title with an unblemished 12-0 mark. "But we ultimately started attacking the basket and we got to the free throw line, which helps us in our press and with forcing turnovers."
Stevenson, which improved to 25-3 overall, will host NSC Prairie champ Antioch in the North Suburban Conference chamionship game Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Should it win, it will be the first NSC title under Dineen.
As for Lake Forest, this wasn't as one-sided a game as the final score suggests.
The Scouts (16-13, 6-6) raced out to a 7-2 lead after freshman forward Maeve Summerville's steal and ensuing 3-point play with just under five minutes left in the first.
But here came that Stevenson pressure defense Dineen referenced. Before you could blink, the Patriots' trap forced a couple of quick turnovers that helped fuel a 22-0 blitzing, which culminated with 2 free throws by senior forward Sophia Way just 45 seconds into the second quarter.
Junior guard Janine Fajardo also popped in 9 of her 12 points and Way netted 6 of her game-high 18 points during that decisive spurt, which helped the hosts build a 24-7 cushion.
"We stayed aggressive and forced some steals and that helped us get going a little," said Butler-bound senior forward Taylor Buford, who chipped in 6 points and this season eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career, along with Way. The Way-Buford duo is on a short list of eight varsity girls players to reach that milestone at Stevenson.
"We have the potential to make this a very special season and we're aiming high," said Buford. "But we're just taking it one game at a time."
Stevenson stayed the course for the rest of that second period and ultimately held a 39-18 lead heading into the locker room.
But Lake Forest showed a lot of fight and perseverance when it outscored the Patriots 27-21 to close to within 60-45 after three quarters. Summerville, who finished with 11 points, sparked the Scouts run by draining three treys in the frame.
But Patriots sophomore guard Ashley Richardson also got hot in the third, when she scored 10 of her 17 points.
"I am so proud of how hard we fought and played all game long," said Lake Forest coach Kyle Wilhelm. "But they (Stevenson) always had an answer. We couldn't string any stops together and we got in the hole in the first half when we shot 6-for-33 from the field."
Lake Forest actually closed the deficit to 60-48 after senior guard Brooke Green's trey opened the fourth. But Stevenson has too many weapons for scoring and this time it was freshman forward Kiana Cencula who made sure the Scouts didn't get any closer when she poured in all 11 of her points during the final 8 minutes.
Freshman forward Skylar Blackstock also had a solid game after netting 15 points as five Patriots scored in double-figures.
Grace Torkelson was a force and provided a strong presence in the paint, scoring 10 points and snaring 13 boards for Lake Forest, which entertains Wauconda on Tuesday at 7 p.m. before starting regional play.