Patriots Dominate the Post

Stevenson’s girls’ basketball team beats Waukegan to win their first conference game

Guard Kendell Williams ’24 and Kate Arne ’23 defend the pick and roll offense of Waukegan. Stevenson had a strong defensive performance, holding Waukegan to 6 points in the second half.

Guard Kendell Williams ’24 and Kate Arne ’23 defend the pick and roll offense of Waukegan. Stevenson had a strong defensive performance, holding Waukegan to 6 points in the second half.

The Stevenson girls’ basketball team started the season off on fire, easily defeating the Waukegan Bulldogs on Nov. 29 to advance to 4-1 on the season. Stevenson scored a multitude of points from the painted area while also putting Waukegan defenders in foul trouble early on. With a win against Waukegan, Stevenson is now ranked fourth by the IHSA right behind Fremd.

As the 2022 IHSA State Champions, Stevenson was the clear favorite to win this matchup against Waukegan. This was evident after the first whistle with the Stevenson defense suffocating Waukegan to force an empty possession. A quick entry pass to forward Emory Klatt ’24 then led to a shooting foul. Waukegan would get into foul trouble very early in the game, having a total of 10 fouls in just the first quarter.

In Waukegan’s very next possession they once again rushed the possession, leading to a careless pass. Guard Nisha Musunuri ’24 picked it off and rushed down the length of the court in transition, scoring to make the game 4-0. Two possessions led to two turnovers for Waukegan and two baskets for Stevenson.

An undersized Waukegan defense had no answer for Klatt and other forwards as Stevenson kept feeding the ball into the post. With no other choice but to foul, Stevenson’s size difference ended up playing a key factor in the game.

“We knew coming in we’d have a size advantage, and our post is one of our strongest offensive units,” head coach Ashley Graham said. “We’re just really proud of them for taking advantage of what the defense gave and the other advantages we had.”

Coach Graham talks with the girls’ basketball team during a timeout. Their biggest game plan for the night was to get the ball down low and utilize their size advantage.

Waukegan not only had to worry about Stevenson’s post players but also Musunuri in transition. After a sloppy Waukegan possession, Musunuri went coast-to-coast for the easy bucket. A few possessions later, Klatt was sent to the line again where she converted both free throws to make it 21-5.

Finally setting up a viable offensive possession, Waukegan guard Ashley Derrick took advantage of a gap in Stevenson’s defense and got deep inside the paint with ease. Making the bucket and absorbing a help defense foul, Waukegan finally got some energy from a 3-point opportunity.

The second quarter started off with a Waukegan fast break which led to a quick 2-pointer to get them into the game. Forward Kate Arne ’23 matched the transition layup with another shot in the post. To match that shot, Waukegan guard Diaja Moore ’23 made an open three to give the Waukegan bench something to cheer for. However, it immediately quieted again after a chippy defensive possession from Waukegan resulted in another foul on Klatt off the entry pass from guard Kendell Williams ’24.

With an open 3-pointer by Musunuri late into the second quarter, Stevenson started a run to end the half off strong. An entry pass from Williams to Klatt resulted in an easy 2-pointer. Then on the next Stevenson possession, Waekegan fouled Klatt, who converted both free throws at the line to make the score 52-25 to end the half. Despite the game being out of reach at this point, Stevenson continued to play hard on both sides of the court and kept their starters in the game.

“No matter what the score is, no matter what’s going on offensively, we want to really make it hard on teams and make them wilt under [the] pressure from us,” Graham said.

Despite having a big lead late into the game, Stevenson continued to play gritty defense, something they’ve done a great job of both this season and last season.

With the ball in the post, Klatt fed the ball to an open Bri Welter ’23 for a mid-range jumper. Pushing the ball up in transition, Klatt found a cutting Bri Welter ’23 for a transition layup. Stevenson’s enduring stamina made a difference late into the high-tempo game, as they continued to run out in transition and profit off of easy looks.

Waukegan finally seemed to find the spark they needed for their offense late in the third, when Waukegan guard Andreyanna Hicks caught the ball on the right wing and drove to the paint for an easy layup to make it 48-25. However it was too little too late as Stevenson achieved their highest lead of the game 57-29 late in the third. Since Stevenson carried a significant lead towards the end of the third quarter, Graham called out the starters and the subs took control of the show.

Back-to-back Waukegan air balls late in the fourth were followed up by back-to-back 3-pointers from guard Emma Brooks ’24 that soon put the game out of reach for the Bulldogs.

Next up, Stevenson will be playing the 5-0 Huntley Red Raiders on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. in the NOW Arena.

The team hopes to establish themselves as a powerhouse in the North Suburban conference and defend their title as the IHSA State Champions. Stevenson has a tough schedule ahead of them, playing with multiple conference-leading teams in future games. Stevenson’s defense and efficient offense will be key to winning these games.

“We’ll continue to make good adjustments within our offense and continue to pride ourselves on the defensive side of the ball,” Graham said.