Fourth-quarter magic lifts Stevenson past Lake Zurich
A fantastic fourth quarter finish made all the difference in the world for host Stevenson Wednesday night in the semifinals of the North Suburban Conference girls basketball tournament.
Trailing Lake Zurich 43-38 after three quarters, the Patriots turned on the heat in the final period as an 18-3 surge helped carry Stevenson to a 62-55 victory over the shellshocked Bears.
With the win, the No. 8 ranked and second-seeded Patriots (16-1) advanced to the NSC championship game against No. 1 seed Libertyville (No. 5 ranked) Saturday at 3 p.m. while Lake Zurich (7-6) will host Lake Forest in the third-place game at the same time.
Stevenson's fourth-quarter surge started with a 3-pointer by Ava Bardic (team-high 13 points) before a drive by teammate Simone Sawyer (10 points), and a 3-pointer by Kendell Williams (12 points) capped an 8-point run for a 46-43 lead.
The Bears tied the game at 46-46 on a trey by Alayna Soukup (13 points). But the Patriots went on a 10-point run with a 3-pointer by senior Nikki Ware (9 points) giving them a 56-46 lead with 2:03 to play.
"We put in a couple of new wrinkles in two days and we did an awesome job for three and a half quarters," said Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett, whose team lost all three meetings with Stevenson this season.
"But they're a great team, they have kids that hit shots, they play so fast, and once the momentum switched we couldn't get it back."
A strange 4-point play for the Bears on a 3-pointer by Baylie Parks (game-high 15 points) and a free throw by Soukup did cut the lead to 56-50 with 1:46 remaining.
But some solid free throw shooting by Stevenson down the stretch kept Lake Zurich from getting any closer the rest of the way.
The Patriots and Libertyville split their two games in the abbreviated season.
"We knew that they (Lake Zurich) were going to keep competing no matter what so we wanted to come out in the fourth quarter really strong," said Sawyer, whose team outscored the Bears 24-12 in the fourth quarter.
"Our key (against Libertyville) is going to be defense, it's going to be a good game so we're really excited to play in the championship against them."
Brook Wahlund scored 10 points for the Bears while teammate Erin Stewart had 9 points. Stevenson's Lydia Lueck had 7 points.
"I think at halftime we were really struggling and in the fourth quarter we started feeling energy and we were able to run on them," said Bardic. "I think defense will definitely be the key for us (against Libertyville) and defensive rebounds really helped us tonight."