Notebook: Top Talent on Display at Midwest Hoops Spotlight Invitational

By Kaleb Carter

Stevenson 65 Kenwood 51

Simone Sawyer cemented her status as one of the state’s best players, regardless of class, in Stevenson’s 65-51 win over Kenwood at the Midwest Hoops Spotlight Invitational at Trinity High School on Saturday. 

Sawyer, a Penn commit, scored 34, sinking 18-of-20 free throws and a trio of three-pointers. The Patriots have defeated Chicago’s top two city teams (Kenwood and Whitney Young) and carry a 26-1 record.

“We knew it was a big game coming in, just like Whitney Young and every other game,” Sawyer said. “We fight really hard and that’s something unique about this team. “We could be up 10 or down 10 and we still have the same fight regardless.”

The Patriots are also the top-ranked team. 

The Broncos went up 39-31 about halfway into the third quarter. Stevenson locked down defensively toward the end of the period and into the fourth. Kendall Willams slowed the state’s consensus-best player Brianna McDaniel of Kenwood. Emory Klatt grabbed 20 rebounds to go with 10 points. The Patriots changed how they guarded McDaniel, a Texas A&M signee, and Whitney Dunn, a Loyola signee. 

“We made some adjustments, obviously Kendall (Williams) did a whole lot on Brianna McDaniel,” Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said. “Such a talent, we all know that. What a wonderful player she is, but our kids just digging in, it goes with belief. They believe they can play with anyone and they want these moments and they want these games.”

The pair (McDaniel and Dunn) still combined for 29 points, but buckets were hard to come by in the second half.

Dunn scored nine of Kenwood’s first 15 points on three triples. The Broncos took a 27-22 lead into half. 

Stevenson freshman guard Nisha Musunuri’s performance (13 points) was critical as the Patriots’ all-time leading three-point shooter, Ava Bardic, missed due to being in concussion protocol.


“I’m so proud of her. She played really well,” Sawyer said of Musunuri. 

Graham was effusive abut her team’s approach to the game. After defeating Warren Friday evening, Graham said some of her team showed up to Saturday’s early shoot around at the school 45 minutes early with a basketball of their own. The Patriots’ bench was unwavering in their relentless positivity and exuberance.

“I think our biggest thing is our belief in each other and I’ve always said that,” Graham said. “We think and we know that we can play with anyone, and the kids go out there and they’re so resilient, right? They’ve been battle-tested. We played without our starting point guard. Our little freshmen and kids off the bench just step up and pick each other up. Such a special win.”

Barrington 61, Libertyville 47

After not scoring in the second or third quarters, Sophie Swanson turned on her offense like a switch, scoring 21 of her 31 in the fourth quarter of Barrington’s 61-47 win.

Emily Fisher registered a huge block and started a fast-break that led to a Rachel Rule layup as the Wildcats cut their deficit to 36-34 just over a minute into the fourth. But Libertyville couldn’t contain Swanson.

“We were kind of flat the whole game, so after I hit that one three we got pretty hype about after it and it was time to turn it up a notch,” Swanson said.

The Fillies controlled the first half, leading by as much as 14.

Recently having secured an offer to play for Loyola, 6-2 sophomore Molly O’Riordan scored eight.

Fisher scored 17 point to earn Player of the Game Honors for the Wildcats, and Swanson earned the honors for Barrington.

Lincoln Way-West 53, Sycamore 51

Ava Gugliuzza may be the one with all eyes on her, but it was a team effort for Lincoln-Way West in a 53-51 win over Sycamore to knock the Spartans (23-1) from the unbeaten ranks.

Aubree Schultz sank a corner three-pointer after a Warriors defensive stop to put Lincoln-Way West up 36-24 in the third, then hit another in the fourth to put the Warriors up 45-33. She finished with 12. Caroline Smith added some timely buckets in the third quarter on her way to 11 points for Lincoln-Way West.

Gugliuzza kept the ball on a string and created looks that made her a threat wherever she was on the floor. She even banked in two three-pointers in the first half.

Sycamore sophomore guard Lexi Carlsen (15 points) and senior Ella Shipley (14 points) led the way for Sycamore late.

Shipley ultimately banked in a shot from the volleyball line to tie the game 51-51 with 6.4 seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, and a clock malfunction that made the officials put time back on the clock, Ava Gugliuzza drew a foul on Sycamore’s JaKiya Thompson right in front of the scorer’s table. Gugliuzza sank both, and after another timeout, Sycamore couldn’t get a shot off as the Warriors held on.

Both teams were missing their biggest forwards: Even Carrier for Sycamore and Evan Pittman for Linton-Way West.

Feuerbach put in a rebound off an offensive rebound to pull the Spartans within four, 46-42, with 1:13 left. Gugliuzza sank two free throws for cushion, only Carlsen to sink a deep trey from the right wing to make it 48-45 with 44.7 seconds left.

After Feuerbach air-balled two shots on the game’s first possession, the senior St. Thomas commit got into her groove toward the end of the first quarter on her way to 17 points.

Gugliuzza (23 points) and Carlsen (15 points) were the players of the game.

Marist 69, Trinity 36

Elise Ward 26’s points landed her Player of the Game honors for Marist, while Lauren Miller’s 15 helped her gain the same for Trinity. 

Fremd 49, Butler College Prep 21

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