Girls basketball: Stevenson downs Benet in Class 4A state semifinal
NORMAL -- That was ugly.
In a matchup between two teams usually known for crisp play, Benet and Stevenson both picked a bad venue for a bad game.
Stevenson took advantage of a long scoring drought by Benet, and received a valiant effort from Ava Bardic to pull out a foul-marred 36-28 win in a Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena.
The Patriots (35-2) advance to the state title game to play Barrington at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday. Stevenson defeated the Fillies twice this season, 52-41 on Dec. 13 and 53-51 on Dec. 30 in the Komaromy Classic championship game at Dundee-Crown.
Bardic, a senior point guard committed to Illinois-Springfield, overcame a sluggish first-half performance to score a game-leading 16 points. Sophomore forward Emory Klatt tossed in 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Benet star junior guard Lenee Beaumont fouled out with 3:14 left in the game, finishing with 7 points on 3-of-9 shooting to go with 6 turnovers. Benet guard Samantha Trimberger scored 7 points, while Morgan Demos, a Navy recruit, scored just 3 points in 22 minutes.
Beaumont, who has roughly 35 college offers, called it a tough way to lose.
"I had some stupid fouls," Beaumont said. "I should've been smarter."
Stevenson, making its first state appearance since 2001 in Class AA, goes in search of its first state championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996. The Patriots overcame a host of foul problems, and star senior guard Simone Sawyer (2 points) missing all eight of her shots and giving up 17 points off turnovers to land a spot in the title game.
"The key was sticking together down the stretch and knocking down free throws," Stevenson coach Ashley Graham. "Basketball is a game of runs, so credit Benet for going on a tremendous run, but we weathered that storm and we handled the basketball and knocked down free throws, and made some key free throws."
The Redwings (30-4) fell victim to an epic cold spell, not scoring for a 14-minute stretch that started early in the second quarter and lasted until 2:23 remained in the third quarter. In total, the Redwings and Patriots combined to shoot 1-for-26 on 3-pointers -- setting a new mark for lowest number of 3-pointers made in a 4A state playoff game. Benet missed all 14 of its 3-point attempts and uncharacteristically turned the ball over 24 times, and shot just 4-for-10 on free throws
"I told the girls that I was very proud of the fight they demonstrated," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "I thought we were a very gritty team today. It was a great comeback, and we were within a possession. The Stevenson kids played very hard. They struggled with foul trouble. It was kind of a messy game that way for both teams. We couldn't get over the hump offensively."
Early in the game, the Redwings looked on the verge of pulling out another close victory.
But the Redwings went into a tailspin that happened immediately after Margaret Temple scored on a driving layup to regain the lead at 11-10 at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter.
An epic cold spell soon followed, with the Redwings missing 10 consecutive shots that lasted until 2:23 remained in the third quarter when Emilia Sularski scored off an inbounds play to stop the bleeding with Stevenson up 19-11.
With Sawyer, Kendall Williams and Kate Arne all in foul trouble for the Patriots, the Redwings started playing more aggressively at the start of the fourth quarter. The Redwings started attacking the basket and the boards, slowly climbing back into the game. Benet scored on its first three fourth-quarter possessions, sparking a 10-0 run that tied the game at 25-25 with 5:25 left.
Bardic, a four-year starter, was one of the few starters on both teams not bothered by foul trouble. She carried the Patriots down the stretch, hitting 6 free throws in the final 1:44, all while handling Benet's pressure to salvage the game for the Patriots. Bardic shot 7-of-9 on free throws and played all 32 minutes.
"It was a team effort," Bardic said. "We wanted to win this game. Benet went on a really strong run in the fourth quarter, but it took everybody to pick it back up and come together. We've trained for this so long ... We had to put our heads together, knew what we were doing to pull it all out together."