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Stevenson’s 47-27 North Suburban Lake victory over Lake Zurich Saturday was yet another example of why the Patriots could become one of Lake County’s most dangerous basketball teams as the season progresses.
After dropping its first four games of the year, Stevenson has reeled off seven straight victories.
This time, it was their smothering defense that took center stage. The Patriots (7-4, 4-1) forced the Bears to miss 16 of their first 19 shots from the field, in what was a scrappy, physical contest from beginning-to-end. They scored the game’s opening basket and never trailed.
“We played probably three out of the top four or five teams in the area early on, so the competition was just outstanding,” Stevenson coach Tom Dineen said. “Not that the competition lately hasn’t been. But we turned the ball over way too often in our first several games. And our defense was just sort of non-existent. That’s all changed rather quickly.”
Against Lake Zurich, the Patriots turned the ball over just three times the entire first half. And it didn’t hurt that they shot a respectable 20-of-43 (overall) from the field thanks to an unselfish brand of basketball that saw them dish out 10 assists in the game’s first 16 minutes.
Stevenson’s five starters led the way. Sophia Way (10 points, four assists), Alex Elzinga (eight points, seven rebounds, five assists), Taylor Buford (eight points), Kari Moffat (six points, four assists) and Paige Freudenberg (nine rebounds) were each significant factors. As was freshman Chloe Ekenberg, who finished with just five points, yet seemed to give the Bears fits on defense every time she came off the bench.
“We’ve got so much young talent on our team,” Elzinga, who is one of the team’s senior leaders, said. “Everyone on this team has been contributing lately, and I think that’s going to be a huge factor for us.”
Lake Zurich (2-9, 0-5) was led by Sara Stefaniu’s team-high 10 points and five assists. Eight of her points came in the second half, but the most notable thing during that same span was the fact the Bears were only out-scored (in the third and fourth quarters) by a 19-18 margin.
The Bears were also without coach Chris Bennett, who was out with the Flu, and told the Sun-Times Media via text message it was the first time he’d missed a game or practice in his 18 years of coaching at any level.
“We are definitely struggling to find our offense,” Bennett said. “But I’m continually impressed with how our team continues to battle all 32 minutes.”