Stevenson shakes off slow start to beat St. Viator

 
By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/25/2020 7:13 PM

Not even a quick turnaround between games and a quality opponent are enough to daunt this Stevenson girls basketball team.

The Patriots won for the second time Saturday in 16 hours, defeating St. Viator, 52-33, in a game closer than the score would make you think over a team better than its 7-11 record would indicate.

 

But when Viator went ahead after Keely McClellan hit a 3-pointer at the first-quarter horn and sophomore star Joy Bergstrom hit twice, finally shaking free from Stevenson's sticky defense, the Lions had a surprising 17-12 lead on their hosts early in period two.

"Things didn't go our way," early in the first half, Stevenson (20-6) coach Ashley Graham noted. "And that point guard (Ahram) was having her way with us. She was giving us fits," with her scoring, ball-handling, defense and overall floor game.

So Stevenson responded the way it has all season, with stepped-up pressure, forced turnovers and transition baskets from sophomore guard Ava Bardic (12 points), Nikki Ware and, of course, senior team leader Avery King (17 points). A King 3-pointer and a Simone Sawyer driving hoop were part of a 15-point, second quarter-closing run and a 27-17 lead at halftime that had hardly seemed imaginable just moments earlier.

"All season, we've had a catastrophic quarter every game. Today's catastrophic quarter was the second," lamented Viator coach Jason Raymond, who had otherwise brought his team in ready to play. But just as significant a problem was shaking Bergstrom loose on offense.

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"Every team we play concentrates on her," said Raymond, and justifiably so for the season she's been having.

But when Stevenson concentrates on you, it's an even bigger problem, as Sawyer and King pretty much took turns guarding the Lions' star, who finished with 12 points, but only 3 field goals and a lot of tough looks.

"She's a tremendous player. Her upside potential is huge," Graham said of the Viator forward.

Graham was more concerned with her team's outlook, having to turn around and play so quickly.

Not to worry.

"The turnaround really challenged our mental toughness," she noted, but her team responded with a 20-of-44 shooting performance, forced Viator into 13 turnovers, committed just 7 and outrebounded the Lions, 26-19.

Raymond, however, believes his team's difficult nonconference schedule has it ready for what's to come. "I'll put our schedule up against anyone in the state's," he said, adding, "We're just trying to put four quarters together."

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