Wildcats use all nine lives to hold off Patriots

Libertyville maintained their lead in a back-and-forth fourth quarter to extend their win streak to 12.

David Sulnius ’23 drives down the lane and scores a wide open layup. Sulnius was able to get the shots he wanted throughout the game, shooting an efficient 5-8 from the field.

Elan Gurevich

David Sulnius ’23 drives down the lane and scores a wide open layup. Sulnius was able to get the shots he wanted throughout the game, shooting an efficient 5-8 from the field.

In a conference matchup on Jan. 14 against the Libertyville Wildcats (16-4), the Stevenson Patriots (15-4) lost 62-53 in a heartbreaking loss to their rivals in a packed gym. Despite strong performances from Aidan Bardic ’25 and David Sulnius ’23, Libertyville’s offense was efficient and controlled the tempo for the majority of the game.

The surprisingly large Libertyville crowd erupted when a good defensive possession translated to an easy layup for Will Buchert. Fueling the crowd even more, Cole Bonder swatted a Patriot shot to keep them scoreless. For the first several possessions, Libertyville was able to keep Stevenson from scoring in the paint—a staple of their offense.

“They clogged the paint really well,” Bardic said. “That’s what [Aydin Boon and Bonder] love to do. We couldn’t figure out how to get to the basket for drives and kicks until the second half.”

Sulnius finally gave the packed-out home crowd something to cheer about, hitting a deep pull-up three off of a Christian Uremovich ’24 screen. Bardic used a Jack Dabbs ’24 screen to hit an open floater, making it 6-2 halfway into the quarter.

On the next play, Libertyville’s Buchert drove to the rim and found just enough space to bank the ball off the glass through traffic for the smooth layup to make it 6-5. Catching a quick swing pass, Jack Huber hit an open left corner three. Buchert threw a lob pass to just the right spot for Bonder to find it for the lob finish.

The Stevenson student section was packed out to support the team. A majority of students and the entire boys basketball team wore Maloney Landscaping shirts to support the local business. (Elan Gurevich)

Sulnius regained the lead for Stevenson when he hit his defender with several moves and got deep into the paint for an open floater, making it 12-10 to end the first quarter.

To start the second quarter, the third time was the charm for Libertyville when Blaise Lavista made an open floater after the team had grabbed three offensive rebounds in one possession. Off a blocked Patriot shot, Lavista found himself wide open for the easy transition layup. Jack Huber got a good look from three and drilled the shot to extend their lead. Stevenson once again turned the ball over and Buchert found himself wide open in transition again. Almost like a broken record, Buchert picked off a sloppy Stevenson pass again and found himself at the other end to put the score at 25-14 in Libertyville’s favor.

However, Uremovich and Dabbs picked the slack up and hit an open three each to cut the score back to 25-20. Stevenson committed a careless foul at the last second of the half and the Wildcats capitalized on it, making both free throws to put the score at 27-20.

Catching a daring cross court pass, Libertyville hit an open corner three to make it 30-20, putting their lead into double-digit figures. Aydin Boone caught the entry pass and two dribbles was all he needed to make the turnaround hook shot.

Aidan Bardic ’25 takes the ball up the court to set up an offensive possession in the half court set. Stevenson struggled to get good looks early on, but late into the game they found rhythm to get themselves back into the matchup. (Elan Gurevich)

On the subsequent play, Michael Maloney ’23 got down the lane and made a mid-air adjustment to avoid the defense, scoring the acrobatic layup. Dabbs grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Bardic who hit the open shot to cut the lead down 34-28. Bardic followed that up by driving downhill and hitting a running hook shot. Stevenson went on a scoring run, shooting efficiently without turning the ball over. Libertyville’s lead was down to four.

“We knew we had to pick it up or else we’d lose,” Maloney said. “Being more aggressive, attacking the basket more and hitting the extra pass is needed.”

Boone got Libertyville back into the game by hitting a tough contested three. Bonder drove baseline and found the open Boone in the corner, who made another three to end the third.

Catching a lob pass from Bardic, Uremovich made a mid air adjustment and rolled the ball into the basket to start the last quarter with a highlight play for the Patriots. Maloney showed some grit and muscled his way into the paint for an open layup.

Once again, it was Bonder in the post finding the wide open Boone who hit another three to put the game at 44-36 to extend Libertyville’s lead. Hitting his defender with a nifty spin move, Buchert smoothly rolled the ball into the basket for the easy layup. Boone just could not be stopped as he hit another three on the subsequent play to put the score at 49-41. Using a quick pick and roll, Bonder got the matchup he wanted in the post and hit his defender with a quick dream-shake followed with a high arching hook shot for the easy score. Stevenson struggled to stop Bonder and Boone from scoring, which ultimately led to their collapse on defense. Boone had huge scoring performances in this game, with Boone scoring 18 points shooting 60% from the field and 66% from three.

“We have to help more [on defense] with the players who are scoring,” Sulnius said. “I don’t think we helped enough, and sometimes we’d overhelp and leave [Bonder] open.”

Stevenson finally responded with Maloney making a put back off a missed shot with the score at 51-44. However, Stevenson lost all momentum when they began a full court press and Huber found an open Bonder who made the easy transition layup.

Now down 57-50 with nearly two minutes left, Stevenson had no other choice but to foul. Libertyville finished the game strong at the free throw line, with the Wildcats’ student section chanting “beat the traffic.”

Despite the loss, Stevenson played exceptionally well. The Patriots hit tough shots and showed signs of success offensively.

“I like how we played tough today,” Sulnius said. “We really moved the ball well—our bigs even hit shots—it’s just that we could’ve done better on defense and executed more on offense.”

The Stevenson Pep Band played tonight in the sportscenter. The band performed at halftime and in between breaks. (Elan Gurevich)