Stewart shoots Lake Zurich over Batavia
Lake Zurich's Erin Stewart stood around in a daze, motionless for a few seconds in an attempt to digest her most recent shot.
Parked a few feet in front of Lake Zurich's bench, just inches away from coach Chris Bennett, Stewart launched a deep 3-pointer that swished through the net at the third-quarter buzzer in Thursday's game against Batavia.
All game long, Stewart showed a penchant for hitting clutch shots, lifting the Bears with her deadeye shooting to finish with four 3-pointers and 12 points in a 47-39 win over Batavia in the consolation semifinals of the Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament in Cicero.
Stewart also added a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left before halftime.
"I didn't think that was going in," Stewart said of her third-quarter buzzer-beater shot. "I just threw it up there. It felt really good. I'm really confident in my shot. When I shoot it and I feel the touch and get my feet it, I think it's going to go in."
The Bears (10-6) move forward to play Deerfield in Wednesday's consolation championship game.
Bennett said Stewart, a senior guard, is a reliable shooter capable of hot streaks.
"When Erin stays within herself, she can do a lot of good things for our team," Bennett said. "Her strength is shooting, and if we put her in the right spot and the kids can find her and she sets her feet, she can knock down shots. That was a great shot at the end of the third quarter by her. She has a great shot when she sets her feet."
The Bulldogs (8-5) were led by sophomore guard Brooke Carlson's 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Batavia senior center Tessa Towers, a Wisconsin recruit, was bottled up by Lake Zurich's defense. The 6-foot-5 Towers rarely got an open look, struggling throughout the game to finish with 2 points and 4 rebounds.
"We did a good job defending (Towers) and Anna Gilbertson did a good job of fighting her in the post for every square inch," Bennett said. "We also made sure we always had somebody on the back side anytime they would throw a lob to make sure she didn't look open."
The Bears, who have topped the 50-point mark in only three games this season, opened Thursday's game in sluggish fashion. They scored just 10 points in the opening 11-plus minutes to fall into a 15-10 hole. But Baylie Parks (12 points) triggered a scoring surge that changed the momentum of the game back in favor of the Bears.
Parks' basket with 4:27 left in the second quarter kick-started a 12-0 run in the quarter that culminated with Stewart canning a top-of-the-key 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer to give the Bears a 22-15 lead.
Stewart was at the forefront of the offensive revival, hitting two 3s in the final three-plus minutes of the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs fell into an offensive haze late in the second quarter.
The Bears surged ahead behind solid half-court defense, limiting the Bulldogs on the offensive glass and scoring in transition. Senior guard Alayna Soukup (11 points) scored 2 early third-quarter baskets to pad the lead to 28-15 before Carlson's 2 free throws ended the Bears' 18-0 run at the 5:31 mark of the third.
Carlson attempted to claw the Bulldogs back into the game with her aggressive play on both ends. She scored 9 of Batavia's 11 third-quarter points, but the Bears' tight defense allowed just 2 points over the next 9 minutes to notch their second win in the four-game tourney.
"I was extremely pleased with our defense the whole game," Bennett said. "We also did a good job on their shooters."