Dickson, Warren force the issue
John Stanczykiewicz tilted his head up, checking his mental Rolodex. Warren's girls basketball coach tried to process and rapidly recall more than 100 varsity basketball games Kaylen Dickson has played.
If the performance she just turned in against Stevenson wasn't the senior guard's best, he concluded, it was one of them.
"Kaylen Dickson was a force of nature tonight," Stanczykiewicz said after Dickson's 28 points, 12 rebounds and 3 steals led Warren to a 46-27 win in a North Suburban Conference showdown that turned into a rout early in the fourth quarter.
Consider, one, a potential conference championship was at stake Friday night at Warren and, two, the Blue Devils hosted a rival. Furthermore, Stevenson was looking to exact revenge after scoring just 28 points in a home loss to Warren early in the season.
The win, Warren's sixth in a row and 11th in 12 games, hiked the Blue Devils' record to 17-5 and 8-1 in the NSC. Stevenson fell to 11-9 and 6-2 with its sixth loss in its last seven games.
"Our track is toward the conference title," Dickson said. "We're getting our name on that board (in the gym)."
If the Wake Forest-bound Dickson keeps playing like she did against Stevenson, the Blue Devils could net the conference title they seek. The athletic Dickson displayed her full arsenal, generating her own shot throughout and scoring on an array of midrange jumpers and bank shots, as well as drives and spins.
She opened the scoring with her only 3-pointer, finished 12 of 22 from the floor (3 of 5 from the stripe) and also dazzled with her dribbling.
"I just executed better than I usually do," said Dickson, whose season high is 31 points (in a loss to Lakes). "More focus, I guess. But I wouldn't be anywhere without my team. I couldn't do it alone."
Eastern Illinois-bound Jordyn Hughes added 10 points (two 3-pointers), 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
"We challenged them to be the best players on the floor, and they were," Stanczykiewicz said of his two Division-I players. "Jordyn seemed to get every defensive rebound on the baseline. And Kay, it was like there was more than one of her sometimes on the floor. She was everywhere, offensively and defensively."
University of Chicago-bound Klaire Steffens had 12 points to pace Stevenson, which struggled all night against Warren's 2-3 zone featuring 5-11 sophomore Macy Kocen and Camille Cuevas out top. The Patriots shot just 3 of 19 from beyond the arc.
"That hurts," Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said. "If you want to pull the zone out, you got to knock down a few of those shots in order to have an inside-outside game. ... You got to credit, too, (Warren's) players."
Warren scored the game's first eight points, as Stevenson didn't scratch until Kiana Cencula canned a 3-pointer late in the opening quarter. Steffens didn't take a shot until she hit a 3 early in the second quarter.
"We had our game plan and I just don' think we executed like we hoped that we would," Patriots forward Isabella Paldrmic said. "We were playing out with the ball a lot at the top. I think we needed to get some more drives. I thought we started to do a good job with that near the end of the game."
Paldrmic noted the job of teammate Krissy Hill, who came off the bench to score 6 points, including a pair of jumpers in the second quarter to help keep the Patriots within 18-13 at halftime. Dickson had 13 points at the break and never cooled off. She hit 3 of 3 shots in the third, as Warren extended its lead to 30-19 entering the fourth.
"Kaylen was just Kaylen, making great, great plays," Graham said.
Warren opened the fourth with a 9-0 run, capped by Dickson's "and one" after she stole an inbound pass under Stevenson's basket.
"I can't say enough about how proud I am of the whole team," Stanczykiewicz said. "We still got many big games left in the conference, but this was one of those hurdles we had to pass in order to have a chance to win conference."