A thriller in Stevenson's favor at Antioch
Prone to insomnia following a loss, which is a rare occurrence for his Antioch team, coach Tim Borries predicted he would sleep soundly Wednesday night.
No, he wasn't going to dwell on any negatives after his Sequoits dropped a 49-46 thriller to visiting Stevenson in the final North Suburban Conference girls basketball championship game.
The Patriots' win, achieved in front of a large and loud crowd, avenged their 68-54 loss on their home court in last year's conference-title showdown.
"I totally enjoyed this game," said Borries, who stood and applauded as Stevenson accepted the championship trophy. "I'm going to miss this."
Borries also wasn't going to lose sleep about how the game's final seconds played out.
After Stevenson (24-5) missed the front end of a one-and-one, missing its chance to extend a three-point lead, Antioch's Maddy Murillo rebounded the ball and Borries called timeout with 13 seconds left. The Sequoits eventually got the ball to a wide-open Murillo, their 5-foot-11 post, who rarely shoots 3-pointers. Her shot from beyond the arc missed and Erika Gallimore snagged the offensive board, but time expired.
Murillo, Borries explained, was the second option on the play.
"Actually, (the play) was for Alexis (Duehr)," Borries said. "I had a feeling (Stevenson) wouldn't be worrying about Maddy. They were switching on everything."
Stevenson, which trailed by 10 points midway through the second quarter, stormed the court and celebrated.
"I wrote it at the bottom of the scouting report: Embrace the atmosphere," Patriots coach Ashley Graham said. "What an awesome high school basketball game."
Ashley Reiser paced Antioch (24-5) with a game-high 22 points, sinking three of her four 3-pointers in the first half. Ashley Richardson and Janine Fajardo limited Reiser to a pair of field goals after halftime.
"Losing is never a good feeling, but I feel pretty good after this game," Reiser said. "We played a really solid game, especially against the defense they played against us."
Jessica Burke led Stevenson with 13 points before fouling out with 1:43 left. Madison Wicklund added 10 points and pair of fourth-quarter blocks. Her 3 baskets helped the Patriots pull within 28-27 at halftime. She scored on a drive early in the fourth and then, with 1:01 left, scored one of the biggest buckets of the game. With Stevenson leading 44-42, Richardson grabbed a defensive board and heaved a pass to Wicklund, who finished the layup.
Wicklund is the Patriots' first player off the bench.
"That kid, the whole year, has accepted her role," Graham said. "Every time she is put into that basketball game, she is mentally and physically ready to go."
"It was crazy," Wicklund said. "(Antioch's) student section was amazing. It was definitely intimidating coming in here, but I thought we played an extremely good basketball game, and I thought Antioch did an extremely good job as well."
The game was played at Antioch's pace early. The Sequoits got 3-pointers from Gallimore (9 points), Duehr (5 points) and Reiser in the first quarter and took a 15-9 lead into the second quarter. They increased their lead to 21-11, before Burke's 2 free throws started a 16-7 run to close the half.
"We took off our '55,' which is our man-to-man full-court press, and then just went into our half-court game," Graham said. "That's what has won us however many basketball games."
"That was definitely ugly in the first half," Richardson said. "We came out slow. We were almost shellshocked. But we picked it up, definitely, in the second half."
When Stevenson needed its junior star to pick it up, Richardson did. She finished with 9 points, a game-high 9 rebounds, 3 steals and what she said was her first block of the season when she stuffed Reiser in the final minute.
Richardson's turnaround jumper and free throw were part of Stevenson's 5-0 run to close the third, giving Stevenson a 38-33 lead.
"She's just a calming influence," Borries said. "She doesn't get rattled."
Stevenson held Antioch to 5 points in the third quarter and 18 for the second half.
"We just weren't pushing the ball as much," Reiser said. "We got out of our game a little bit and slowed down. During about a 12-minute span there, we just weren't doing what we were doing in the first half."