Zion-Benton's 'D' just too much for Stevenson
With her Stevenson basketball team chasing an eight-point deficit in the finals seconds, Ashley Richardson pulled up and sank a 3-pointer from just past the center circle, or as the PA announcer quipped, "from Route 22."
It was that hard for the Patriots to score baskets against Zion-Benton's tenacious man-to-man defense.
Despite taking a lead into the fourth quarter, No. 3 Stevenson didn't have enough in the end, as the sixth-seeded Zee-Bees won 54-48 in the Class 4A Wheeling regional final Thursday night.
T.T. Maggett had a game-high 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals for Zion-Benton (22-7), which will play No. 2 Buffalo Grove (24-5) in Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. sectional semifinal at Stevenson.
"The defense won the game," said Zee-Bees senior guard Marquitta Easley, who was a freshman on varsity the last time Z-B won a regional title. "Normally, our defense doesn't help a lot. We saved it for this game."
Stevenson, which split its two games with Z-B in North Suburban Lake Division play, losing 48-43 three weeks ago, finished 25-6.
"It was a good run," said Patriots senior guard Janine Fajardo, who had 3 points (a 3-pointer) and 3 steals in the final game of her three-year varsity career. "I will give credit to that Zion team. They played phenomenal defense."
Maggett, who played for Zion-Benton as a freshman before spending the last two seasons at North Chicago, played some offense to spark her team in the final quarter. She opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to tie the score at 36-36 and wound up scoring 12 points in the frame. She made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:55. Her first 2 foul shots capped a 9-0 run that started with Raven Morris' putback that snapped a 38-38 tie with 4:56 left.
"Our defense was there, but offense wins games too," Maggett said. "Everybody doubted that we could beat Stevenson, so we really had to come out tonight and show them."
Easley played equally huge for the Zee-Bees. Listed at 5 feet 2, she hustled for 7 of Zion-Benton's 17 offensive rebounds. Easley also scored 15 points and grabbed, in total, 9 boards.
"She killed us, that's for sure," Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said.
"They're a great team offensively. We make them miss, and then they get second- and third chance opportunities, and we're not good enough to defend it 2-3 times."
Stevenson turned the ball over 16 times, and even with Richardson's long 3 late, the Patriots shot just 4 of 12 from the floor in the fourth in getting outscored 21-12.
Richardson sank three 3s and scored 14 of her team-high 15 points after halftime. Madison Wicklund came off the bench to score 12 points, and Kiana Cencula (team-high 5 rebounds) had 11, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter that helped the Patriots go into halftime up 23-18.
Z-B also got contributions from Niquera Short (6 points, 6 rebounds), Krystal Walker (5 points, 7 boards) and Morris (5 points).
"We were the lower seed. They were supposed to win," Maggett said. "But our energy and effort (were the difference)."