Big second half propels Stevenson past New Trier
Friday's first quarterfinal of the 37th annual Komaromy Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament at Dundee-Crown High School featured the rather rare instance of two head coaches who also starred as players in the prestigious 16-team event.
Former Buffalo Grove great Ashley Sandstead Graham's Stevenson Patriots tipped off against former Libertyville standout Teri Rodgers and her New Trier Trevians.
"New Trier is such storied program," Graham said. "I have so much respect for that program. They're someone you want to try and emulate and Teri is a phenomenal coach."
Graham would sure like to see her team emulate its second-half performance many more times this season.
The Patriots (11-4) outscored the Trevians 30-9 in the final 16 minutes to post a 52-22 triumph and advance to Saturday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal against three-time defending champion Maine West (13-1).
"I thought it was a complete second half," Graham said. "Obviously it was close in the first half and then we kind of opened it. We did some real nice things offensively."
The offense was led by sophomore guard Ava Bardic, who netted 16 points with a pair of 3-pointers, 3 assists and 1 steal.
"The past couple of games Ava has been so strong for us," Graham said. "Not just her scoring but her ability to handle the basketball."
Also reaching double figures for Stevenson were Simone Sawyer (12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) and Avery King (10 points, 2 steals). Nikki Ware and Lydia Lueck each chipped in 6 points for the Patriots, who won their fourth straight since back-to-back losses to Libertyville and Zion-Benton.
"Those two losses were really the turning point of our season," Graham said. "Our backs were to the wall and if there is one thing we know how to do, it's respond to adversity and handle those setbacks. There are going to be ups and downs and we sure had some downs but we came back from them better.
"I'm so proud of the kids because they could have put their heads down but they didn't. They fought back and our defense has been much more sound."
The Patriots got off to a sound start as a driving layup by Sawyer, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Bardic and Sawyer made it 8-0 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
The Pats held New Trier (7-6) to just 2 free throws in the first quarter and didn't give up a basket until a driving layup by Olivia Becker (team-high 10 points) made it 8-4 with 7:43 left in the second quarter.
"Becker is such a nice player for them," Graham said.
Becker's 3-pointer and a 6-footer by Abigail Ryan got New Trier to within 14-8 with 4:18 left in the second quarter.
The Pats used a pair of 3-pointers from Bardic and Ware to grab a 20-11 advantage and led 22-13 at intermission.
"We knew they were going to throw a lot of defenses at us," Graham said. "So we had to make a few adjustments at half. We just had some little nuances that we wanted to mix up and we did a nice job getting ball into transition. And we made shots. It's easy to coach when you make shots."
The Pats made 20-of-41 from the field and held New Trier to 6-of-30.
"We were playing real good defense in the first half," Bardic said. "On offense we were just finding little gaps to drive and everyone was hitting their shots.
"I think it all started with our defense. We were able to deny a lot of passes and stay in the gaps. They did a good job finding back doors, and we did a really nice job defending it."
"I'm just so proud of our kids to be in the final four of such a storied holiday tournament," Graham added.