Stevenson's second half does in Palatine
Any more games against Mid-Suburban League schools and Stevenson's girls basketball team just might qualify for membership.
The Patriots finished a tough nonconference portion of their schedule Saturday afternoon with a 4-1 record against MSL teams, several of which will be in their Class 4A sectional, by scoring a 56-26 win at Palatine in a game that was closer than it looked going into the third quarter.
And while the Patriots (15-6) just might see Palatine or any number of MSL teams in their 4A regional, "You never want to peak too early," said head coach Ashley Graham, a veteran of Mid-Suburban League battles herself at Buffalo Grove.
Now she has a team that is building toward its peak and showed it Saturday afternoon. The Patriots broke open a close halftime edge with a 9-1 run out of the gate in the third quarter, keyed by sophomore guard Ava Bardic's 3-pointer and her driving layup, Avery King's bucket on a nice feed from Simone Sawyer and King's putback moments later. That trio paced a balanced Stevenson attack with 12 points apiece.
But make no mistake, it's the senior King who sets the bar, although she modestly says of her leadership role, "I try to lead by example."
She did that right from the get-go in the first quarter, when Stevenson seized the lead but not quite outright control as she hit 3 of 4 shots in the first period, while Bardic added a 3 and bucket and Sawyer a 3.
Meanwhile, Palatine hung around throughout the first half on the rebounding and inside play of Kayla Miotk and Olivia Radtke. But the game turned when the Pirates missed 7 of 8 free throws from the second quarter into the third while Stevenson went on its run to open the third and Sawyer closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating 3 for a 45-23 lead.
It was defense all the way for Stevenson, as it forced 23 turnovers out of Palatine and limited the Pirates to 10 second-half points.
"You're not going to beat anyone scoring 10 points in the second half, but we had their attention there," as the first half closed, said Palatine (9-10) head coach Mark Johnson.
Now, the Patriots want to work on just what coach Graham mentioned -- building to peak performance.
"I think we haven't peaked yet," said King. "We have been trying to lock it down on defense. Now we have to work on not rushing our shots," after going 22 of 49 from the floor, but a solid 6 of 12 on 3-pointers.
Palatine, meanwhile, is working on getting up a notch to Stevenson's level of efficiency. "Who knows, we may end up playing them for a regional championship," Johnson noted.
Just don't count it as a Mid-Suburban League title.