Youngsters come through in Stevenson's Komaromy title-game win over Barrington
In one of the all-time great finishes of the 38-year-old Dundee-Crown Komaromy Classic, it was two of the youngest players on the floor who teamed up to bring Stevenson's girls basketball team its first title in Carpentersville since the Patriots' glory teams of the 1990s.
With the clock winding down inside 10 seconds, sophomore guard Kendell Williams found freshman guard Nisha Musunuri in the corner.
Musunuri dribbled quickly to the middle of the lane and tossed up a 5-footer with 4.9 seconds left which proved to be the winning basket in the Patriots' thrilling 53-51 triumph over Barrington (12-5).
The Patriots still had to survive Sophie Swanson's strong drive to the basket in the final seconds where the senior standout (20 points) barely missed a 6-foot bank shot to seal Stevenson's first crown at D-C since it won three in a row from 1993 to 1995 under coach Frank Mattucci.
"It was a great pass from Kendell," said Musunuri, who just seven months ago was an eighth grader at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove. "Honestly, I would have expected to have been more nervous. But at that moment, there wasn't time to think about it."
"I was looking for Simone (Sawyer, a Penn recruit who scored a game-high 24 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists), " said Williams (4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals), who made the big pass after getting the ball from Ava Bardic (15 points, 4 steals, 3 assists).
"Nisha just went to the short corner. I was very surprised to see her open there and I had faith in her."
Sure enough, Musunuri charged right to the hoop and got the bucket to give Stevenson its 16th win in 17 games.
"Our young kids stepped up and our freshman probably made the biggest basket of her life,'' said Patriots veteran coach Ashley Graham who played four years as a guard for Buffalo Grove at the D-C tourney.
"We showed mental toughness down the stretch."
Graham hardly missed the fact that Stevenson once dominated in the tradition-rich tourney in which her club was third in 2019.
"The only thing I said in my pregame was '1995' " Graham said. "Obviously none of these kids were even born then. It was a tremendous era for Stevenson girls basketball and we're just proud to bring the title back home.
"I'm just so proud of our kids' resiliency and obviously we were in foul trouble as were they, but we battled through it."
Swanson picked up her fourth foul with five minutes left in the third quarter and Sawyer got her fourth with 1:41 left in the period. Both returned with 5:57 left in the game and never picked up a fifth foul.
Barrington built a 12-3 lead midway through the first quarter taking advantage of 3-pointers from Allison Funk (6 points) and Swanson. Two free throws by Laura Mahlum (6 points, 2 steals) made it 12-3 with 3:16 left.
But Stevenson gradually climbed its way back into contention and trailed only 16-13 after one quarter thanks to Sawyer's driving layup with seven seconds left.
Sawyer came back with a 3-pointer with 6:54 left in the second quarter and it was her bucket with 2:31 left that tied the game at 23-23.
Bardic's steal and layup with a minute left in the first half sent the Pats into the locker room with a 25-23 lead.
Stevenson never trailed in the third quarter and Musunuri's leaping 7-foot bank shot in the lane just before the buzzer gave the Patriots a 41-37 lead.
"We had the lead and Sophie Swanson took over (9 points after returning) like Sophie Swanson can do," Graham said. "But we battled through it, Props to Barrington. They are so talented at so many different positions and obviously they have one of the best players in the state."
Sophomore Emory Klatt added 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals for Stevenson.
Barrington sophomore Molly O'Riordan had 12 points and 8 rebounds while classmate Gwen Adler collected 10 rebounds, 7 points and 4 steals and 2 assists.
"It was a great game," said Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro, whose team fell to the Pats, 52-41 on Dec. 13. "I have such respect for Stevenson and what they're doing this season. I really felt we had opportunities to win.
"They are a top-ranked team in the state and we battled them. We didn't quit and I'm really proud of the kids. They played great basketball for four days. It was a gutsy performance by both teams and could have been anyone's game."
"It's a tremendous win for our program and these kids," Graham added. "We talk about being champions in everything we do and they are champions on and off the court."
And this was truly a championship game.