Lake Forest guards break Stevenson's heart
The realization that there would be no Saturday practice with her team released a burst of tears from Stevenson coach Ashley Graham's eyes, which were already leaking.
To blame, too, for her pain was the play of Lake Forest's duo of 5-foot-5 guards Molly Fisher and Bella Ranallo in Friday night's Class 4A Lake Forest regional final. While Douglass scored a game-high 19 points in the Scouts' 51-46 win, Fisher and Ranallo provided a spark that the Patriots -- and maybe even the hosts -- didn't see coming.
The junior Fisher scored 14 points, draining two of her four 3-pointers in the pivotal third quarter. The freshman Ranallo added 12 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and 3 steals. The Patriots' help-side defense yielded only 3 field goals to Douglass, who sank 12 of 14 free throws, including 4 of 6 in the game's final minute.
"As good as Halle is," Graham said of the 6-foot-2, Wisconsin-bound Douglass, "Molly Fisher and the freshman broke our hearts."
After winning its third regional championship in four years, No. 5 Lake Forest (25-8) will play top-seeded Hersey (26-7) at 6 p.m. Monday in a semifinal of the Palatine sectional.
Ava Bardic's 16 points paced No. 4 Stevenson (25-8), which had won 13 of its last 14 games.
The Patriots, who never led despite tying the score three times in the third, shot an uncharacteristic 4 of 23 from three-point range.
"Our bread and butter is drive, kick," said Patriots sophomore guard Simone Sawyer, who had 15 points, including a 3-pointer, and 9 rebounds. "We weren't hitting our shots, so that slowed us down a little bit. We just tried to get inside and get offensive rebounds since we were missing. And we just kept shooting. Why not? Let it fly."
Lake Forest led by as many as 8 points in the first half but was up only 23-21 at halftime. After Sawyer's 3 pulled Stevenson even at 32-32, Douglass made 2 free throws to start a 9-2 run that closed the third quarter for the Scouts. Ranallo converted a steal into her own layup, and Fisher splashed another open 3.
"A few miscues on screening action for Fisher to knock down 3s," Graham said. "Give credit to her. Those are big plays, big moments for that kid. But bigger moments for the freshman, who has never been really in these moments. Just really played her heart out."
When Ranallo -- a "driver," Graham called her -- wasn't hurting Stevenson in transition, she was beating them to rebounds, grabbing 4 on the offensive glass.
"Don't tell me height matters when you want to rebound," Lake Forest coach Kyle Wilhelm said with a laugh.
"She wants it," Wilhelm added of what makes Ranallo a good rebounder, despite her lack of height. "When that ball goes up, she is looking at the angle at which it's hitting the rim, and she's already plotting how she's going to get the ball. It's just desire, will."
When Ranallo grabbed a defensive rebound and raced the other way to score on a drive early in the fourth, the Lake Forest lead was 45-34.
"I just go for the ball," Ranallo said. "It's not most about height for me. It's how much you want the ball."
Ranallo banked in another drive later in the quarter after the Patriots cut their deficit to 45-41.
What a difference from when the teams played a month ago at Stevenson. Playing without Fisher (shoulder) and with a banged-up Douglass (ankle), the Scouts got blown out 48-25.
"We weren't 100 percent," said Wilhelm, whose Scouts split their regular-season series with the Patriots. "We knew that was not really indicative of what we were capable of, and then when you have freshmen [including forward Rachel Kaus] that have been stepping up the way they have, [it makes a difference]."