Sawyer's career-high 34 lift No. 1 Stevenson past Kenwood

  • Simone Sawyer

    Simone Sawyer

 
By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/29/2022 8:18 PM

Stevenson's Simone Sawyer nearly collapsed to the floor in fatigue.

The senior guard was locked in a no-holds-barred physical battle trying to will her team to a victory over Kenwood on Saturday night.

 

After stealing a pass early in the fourth quarter and tumbling to the ground on a drive to the basket, Sawyer walked over to Stevenson coach Ashley Graham for a quick pep talk.

Graham softly grabbed her star player, cracking a smile and then giving her a quick hug.

"(Coach) just came up to me, and said how proud she was of me because she knew I was exhausted and she pushed me to keep going," Sawyer said of her brief in-game chat with Graham.

With the Patriots missing senior point guard Ava Bardic due to an injury, Sawyer was burdened with bigger load on her shoulders.

But Sawyer responded with one of the best two-way games of her career, falling 4 points shy of equaling Stevenson's single-game scoring record.

In a highly anticipated game between two of the best teams in Class 4A, Sawyer displayed a lot of moxie by scoring a career-high 34 points in a 65-51 win over Kenwood at the Midwest Hoops Spotlight Invitational at Trinity High School.

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Sawyer, a Penn recruit, showed she was the premier player in a game that featured numerous college-bound recruits, most notably Kenwood guard and Texas A&M recruit, Brianna McDaniel (15 points). Kenwood senior guard Whitney Dunn, a Loyola-Chicago recruit, had 13 points, as the Broncos (17-5) were held to 21 points in the second half.

"I'm exhausted and I'm glad we have (Sunday) off," Sawyer said, smiling. "Ava is a huge part of this team. Everyone had to step up because one of our best leaders was out."

Stevenson freshman guard Nisha Musunuri continued her stellar breakout season, finishing with 13 points, including hitting all 6 of her fourth-quarter free throws. Sophomore forward Emory Klatt was instrumental in the comeback win, tallying a double-double with 10 points and 20 rebounds.

"I have never played a more physical game in my entire career," Klatt said. "Without Ava, we didn't know what to expect at first, but we battled and worked hard. That was a great win."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 5-foot-10 Sawyer played bigger than her physical build, lifting the top-ranked Patriots (26-1) to a marquee win.

"Simone had a ton on her shoulders, not only guarding Dunn but then having to do a load of our offensive work," Graham said. "She's one of the most special players that Stevenson has seen. She shows up in these big moments."

The nonconference matchup between a city powerhouse and a suburban elite team was marred by countless fouls, tumbles to the court, wild out-of-control action and several players fouling out.

Kenwood, which has potentially eight players who will play in college, led 38-31 late in the third quarter, but Stevenson tightened up on defense, holding the Broncos to 1-for-20 shooting during a pivotal nine-minute stretch.

"We started defending better and keyed on Dunn and McDaniel and we rebounded," Graham said. "We did a nice job rebounding tonight."

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