Simone Sawyer dominates, leads Stevenson to Class 4A title

Simone Sawyer bounced back from a rough performance in the Class 4A semifinals with a dominant one in the Patriots’ 55-43 title-game win over Barrington Saturday at Redbird Arena.

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Stevenson’s Simone Sawyer (13) accelerates as she dribbles around Barrington’s Gwen Adler (15).

Stevenson’s Simone Sawyer (13) accelerates as she dribbles around Barrington’s Gwen Adler (15).

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

NORMAL, Ill. — Simone Sawyer’s next-to-last game for Stevenson wasn’t one to remember apart from the result.

The last one? She’ll hold onto that memory for the rest of her life.

Sawyer bounced back from a rough performance in the Class 4A semifinals with a dominant one in the Patriots’ 55-43 title-game win over Barrington Saturday at Redbird Arena.

The Penn recruit was everywhere, hitting jumpers, making steals (a 4A title-game record five), and hitting the boards. She led all scorers with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, a day after missing all eight of her field-goal attempts and finishing with two points in a 36-28 semifinal win over Benet.

“It was a crazy game,” Sawyer said of Friday. “We got in foul trouble, they got in foul trouble. ... I personally did not play well so I knew I had to bounce back for this game.”

That showed from the start. The speedy 5-10 guard scored Stevenson’s first 10 points and had 12 as the Patriots (35-2) raced ahead 16-4 after one quarter.

“Going into the game, I knew I was not going to have a repeat of Friday,” Sawyer said. “I knew we needed to win and I needed to play well.”

That helped the Patriots follow coach Ashley Graham’s game plan.

“I wrote on the board tonight when two great teams meet, it’s about imposing your will,” Graham said. “And man, did these kids just [do it] for 32 minutes.”

The Patriots gradually stretched the lead to 21 in the third quarter before Barrington (30-6) got as close as 11, 48-37, with 7:02 left in the game.

But Stevenson pushed the lead back to 17 and slowed down the pace to clinch its third state title and first since going back-to-back in 1995-96.

The Patriots dropped their last regular-season game to 3A runner-up Nazareth. Then they took care of business in the playoffs, avenging their only other loss by beating Loyola in the supersectional.

“Losses are so good for us,” Graham said. “We don’t want too many of them, but they’re good. It gets us back in the film room. A turning point in our season was our loss to Loyola.”

Stevenson players celebrate after winning the  Class 4A state title.

Stevenson players celebrate after winning the Class 4A state title.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Learning from those mistakes — and using the experience of playing Nazareth’s zone against Barrington’s similar defense — helped put the Patriots over the top.

Senior guard Ava Bardic, an Illinois-Springfield recruit, added 13 points for Stevenson and Kate Arne scored eight.

Junior guard Sophie Swanson, a Purdue commit, led Barrington with 14 points and five steals. Molly O’Riordan added 12 points and seven rebounds.

“I love my kids and they never give up,” Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro said. “We battled, we just didn’t have some things go our way.

“I think a big part of that was that Stevenson just executed offensively pretty well and they hit some shots that they just haven’t been hitting as of late.”

And no one hit more than Sawyer.

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