Girls basketball: Sawyer, Bardic help Stevenson dominate Barrington for 4A title
NORMAL - Stevenson girls basketball coach Ashley Graham wanted to find a player to hug to celebrate the historical achievement late in Saturday night's game against Barrington.
After Stevenson had endured a long drought without a state championship dating back to 1996 - and watching her eventual alma mater, Buffalo Grove, win a state title in 2000 when she was in eighth grade - Graham sought the company of a familiar face of the Stevenson program in Ava Bardic.
Bardic and Simone Sawyer, a pair of four-year starters, have helped restore the luster back in the Patriots' program. Seconds after Stevenson recorded a 55-43 victory over Barrington in the Class 4A state championship game at Redbird Arena, Graham embraced Bardic for an extended and emotional hug.
Graham credited Bardic and Sawyer for helping power the Patriots to a state title.
"It's hard to put into words what they've meant to me, and all of them are my family, but those two kids I've been in the gym with for four straight years for countless minutes, hours, games and seeing them in schools and in lunches," Graham said of Bardic and Sawyer.
Sawyer and Bardic carried the Patriots (36-2) throughout the season, and Saturday's blowout win was no different. Sawyer, a Penn recruit, was a menace on both ends of the court, scoring a game-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting. She was dominant on defense, piling up 5 rebounds, 5 steals and blocking a shot in the fourth quarter to lead the Patriots to their third state title, and first since Frank Mattucci guided the program to back-to-back championships in 1995 and 1996.
"I wrote on the board tonight when two great teams meet, it's about imposing your will and these kids, for 32 minutes even when Barrington went on a run, we continued to impose our will like we've done all year long," Graham said. "They've had a target on their backs, but kept rising to each challenge."
Bardic played stellar in a gritty effort, scoring 13 points and connecting on 3-of-8 3-pointers to stake the Patriots to leads of 16-4 after the first quarter and 34-17 by halftime.
"This wins means everything, and ending this way is just the icing on the cake," Bardic said. "This is the best thing that could've happened to me. I can't believe we won this way."
Sawyer fell short of her career high of 34 points, but she played lights-out on offense and defense to bounce back from a 2-point effort against Benet in Friday's state semifinal. Sawyer was a blur all night, chasing down loose balls, playing aggressive defense and scoring on a number of hard-driving layups.
"Friday was a crazy game, low scoring and they got in foul trouble and we got into foul trouble," Sawyer said. "I wanted to get better and play better tonight."
The Patriots did the unthinkable, rising up for a collective effort to contain Barrington high-scoring guard Sophie Swanson. The Purdue recruit lit up Bolingbrook for 35 points in Friday's semifinal, but she shot just 5-for-14 from the field for 14 points Saturday.
"They were doubling me for most of the game and face-guarding me, so it was hard to get into our offense," Swanson said. "We fell behind and couldn't catch up but this is great for our program and a great confidence-booster going into next year."
Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro fell short of following Fremd's 2019 4A state title win, but she cherished a season full of memories. Sophomore forward Molly O'Riordan had 12 points and 7 rebounds and Gwen Adler and Allison Funk both scored 6 points. The Fillies (30-6) committed 16 turnovers and gave up 24 points in the paint.
"I'm really proud that we got here, just a great group of kids to work with," Barreiro said. "It's been a great season. Tonight was tough. I thought Stevenson came out on fire offensively and hit some big buckets. They haven't been scoring like that, of late. They hit those early shots, and we tightened up, but we never gave up."