Lake Forest delivers Stevenson first loss
The difference was obvious.
And, no, it wasn't just that Lake Forest's basketball players towered over Stevenson's girls.
"Well, I really like to win, so the win was really good," Grace Tirzmalis, Lake Forest's 6-foot-1 senior forward and four-year varsity player, said with a laugh when asked what was the difference between Friday night's 61-50 win over host Stevenson and the Scouts' 51-34 loss to Libertyville three nights earlier. "At practice, we really focused on our offense and our defense because if you watched the film or saw the game on Tuesday, I feel like we were slow. ... Our main focus today was just to run the defense and know that we can get box-outs and rebounds because we got height."
The Scouts have talent, too. Tirzmalis' game highs of 23 points (four 3-pointers) and 11 rebounds led the way, as Lake Forest improved to 6-1 and 1-1 in the North Suburban Conference, while handing Stevenson (6-1, 1-1) its first loss of the season.
Ellie Pearson (6-1) and Halle Douglass (6-2) added 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the visitors, who led most of the night.
"Lake Forest is a great team," Stevenson sophomore point guard Nikki Ware said. "They have great players, they know how to get the ball in the middle, they know how to put the ball in the basket around the rim, and our young team showed how unprepared we were for this game defensively. In the past few games, we got away with it."
Stevenson has been averaging around eight 3-pointers per game and sank nine against Lake Forest. The Scouts' length -- four starters range in height from 5-11 to 6-2 -- contributed to the Patriots' lack of accuracy from the arc, as several shots were hurried. Stevenson missed 22 attempts from three-point range (29-percent shooting).
"Those are tall kids and they were contesting," Patriots coach Ashley Graham said of the Scouts.
"Shooting 3s is our game," Ware said after going 4 of 8 from the arc. "Our game plan was to drive and kick, but we can finish around the rim with our good finishers Avery (King) and Simone (Sawyer)."
King led the Patriots with 15 points and 7 rebounds, but fouled out early in the fourth. Ware's 12 points came on her four 3s, and the freshman Sawyer added 11 points. Ware hit back-to-back 3-pointers down the stretch to cut a 57-44 deficit to 7 points, but Tirzmalis and guard Molly Fisher each hit a pair of free throws to ice the win for Lake Forest.
Neither team shot well in the opening quarter, but Tirzmalis' trio of 3-pointers helped the Scouts take a 27-21 lead into halftime.
"Especially coming off a rough one on Tuesday (against Libertyville), we talked about coming out with a lot of energy and playing together," Lake Forest coach Kyle Wilhelm said. "This was, hands down, the best team game we played -- just making the extra passes, getting teammates in the right spots, talking on defense, boxing out, getting loose balls."
When Tirzmalis wasn't dropping in long-range shots, the Scouts were getting good looks inside thanks to unselfish play and recognition of mismatches down low.
"The issue was our defense," Graham said. "Lake Forest is just a sound and upperclassman-dominated team. They picked apart things that we have done well up until this point."