Patriots, Corsairs, Fillies make Lake County proud
NORMAL -- It's funny how things work out sometimes.
On Dec. 30, had you asked Babbi Barreiro and Ashley Graham if they envisioned their respective girls basketball teams would be playing against each other for the Class 4A state championship less than three months later, they would have both said they sure hoped so.
But in reality Barreiro, the Barrington coach of 30 years, and Graham, a Buffalo Grove graduate who was in eighth grade when the Bison won the Class AA title in 2000, seemed destined on that December night at Dundee-Crown to meet again somewhere along the state tournament trail.
And here they were 65 days later, their teams playing each other at Redbird Arena for the big prize.
"No, absolutely not," said Barreiro when asked if she thought her Fillies would be playing Graham's Patriots for the state championship.
"We had a lot of goals and it's been wonderful. These kids play so hard and work together so well. I'm just so proud of them."
As she is of Graham, who Barreiro coached against when Graham, nee Sandstead, played at BG, then when she began her head coaching career at Prospect and now, for the past seven years at Stevenson.
"I have a great deal of respect for (Graham) and the job she's done as a coach," said Barreiro, an Elk Grove High School product.
"I'm proud of her. Her best friend is Allison Guth (a BG grad who was on the 2000 state championship team), who was my assistant for a while. Ashley works so hard and she coaches the right way and with values that matter. For her team and mine to be in this game is special."
Count Graham among those who wasn't thinking about playing Barrington on Saturday at Redbird back in December, and one who showed mutual respect to her Saturday night counterpart.
"Not in my wildest dreams," Graham said when asked the question about her thoughts of playing Barrington for a state title after Stevenson defeated the Fillies 53-51 in the Komaromy Classic title game.
"You never know how your road to the state tournament will go. Barrington is such a great basketball team and I couldn't be happier for Babbi. She's been such a mentor to me. I couldn't be happier for her and her kids."
Mutual respect? For sure, but respect that took a back seat for 32 minutes here Saturday night. Never mind that Stevenson won the game 55-43. We can only hope that 50 years from now, what's remembered isn't the final score but the memories.
And on this, the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it's only fitting that the two people coaching in the final girls basketball game of the 2021-2022 season are females who have poured their heart and soul into growing the game.
Graham may have never played in a high school tournament at Redbird Arena, but she played plenty of games on Doug Collins Court as an Illinois State Redbird.
"It was a long time ago," Graham laughed. "Personally, for me, Redbird Arena is home and it's surreal to be coaching in a state tournament here. It's definitely like coming home."
You go, Lake County:
Not to be overshadowed by the Stevenson-Barrington clash was Carmel Catholic's stunning 43-39 upset of top-ranked Nazareth for the Class 3A championship, the first basketball state title for either gender for Carmel.
Kind of cool for three Lake County schools (remember, Barrington physically is in Lake County) to be playing for state titles and two of them to bring home the big trophy.
After all, these are nights lifelong memories are made.