Fajardo flourishes as Stevenson handles Hononegah
The smile never left Janine Fajardo's face, even if her offensive game had abandoned her.
"I don't think there's ever a time when I'm on the court not smiling," Stevenson's senior guard said, smiling, of course. "I love the game and I love to play it. That's all that matters."
Monday at Dundee-Crown, Fajardo mattered. A lot.
She scored 8 of her season-high 13 points in the fourth quarter, as Stevenson pulled away to capture a 51-37 win over Rockton Hononegah in quarterfinal action of the 33rd annual Charger Classic.
There might not have been anyone more happier for Fajardo than Patriots coach Ashley Graham.
"She's a pleaser," Graham said after her Patriots won their 10th game in a row to advance to Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal against Buffalo Grove. "She wants to do well."
A defensive sparkplug on varsity since her sophomore year, Fajardo got her offense going for Stevenson (11-2) when it needed her most, as the Patriots and Lady Indians played a tightly contested game for more than three quarters.
Her 3-pointer opened the fourth-quarter scoring, breaking a 32-32 tie. Then after she finished a fastbreak layup and Hononegah immediately turned the ball over, the affable Fajardo hustled over to Graham, who greeted her with a wide smile and low five.
"She's an emotional leader and she knows how emotional and passionate I am," Graham said. "She loves that. After a charge, she always comes up to me. She feeds off that."
Fajardo shot 5 of 8 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from three-point range. Her previous season-high point total was eight. She averaged nearly 8 points per game last season, producing 7 double-digit scoring efforts.
"Sometimes I think she thinks twice (about shooting)," Graham said. "She wants to make the right decision really bad. She wants to do the right thing at all times, and sometimes that makes her less aggressive than she should be."
After not scoring in the first half, which ended in a 23-23 tie, Fajardo sank a 3-pointer that started a 9-0 run, erasing a five-point deficit and giving the Patriot a 32-28 lead. Hononegah got to the basket twice after that, however, and pulled even again entering the fourth.
Late in the third, Stevenson switched defensively to -- gasp -- a zone.
"We have not played a zone all year," Graham said. "We practice it when we're doing different press situations, but we were just flat-out getting taken to the basket (by Hononegah), badly. We needed to switch something up."
By the time Stevenson ditched its zone, it was late in the fourth and the Patriots had built a double-digit lead.
Fajardo's third 3-pointer extended Stevenson's lead to 42-34 with 6:05 left.
"Sometimes you need to find that confidence in you," said Fajardo, who also had 4 rebounds and 3 assists, and took a charge. "Once I hit that first one, I started getting a tempo. I started feeling it. And then I had the help of my teammates to get me those open shots."
Ashley Richardson had a team-high 14 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds for Stevenson, which also received 7 points apiece from Jessica Burke (8 rebounds) and Kiana Cencula. The Patriots outscored the Lady Indians 19-5 in the fourth.
Hononegah got 14 points (two 3s) from freshman guard Jordan King.