Simone Sawyer Leads Stevenson to 4A Girls Title

By Kaleb Carter

NORMAL – Simone Sawyer shook off whatever bad shooting bug had bitten her in her previous few games, scoring 26 points as Stevenson defeated Barrington 55-43 to give the Patriots their first state title since 1996. 

Barrington was battling from behind all game, falling behind as much as 21 (41-20). 

Fillies junior Sophie Swanson shook her defender and nailed a three-pointer about a minute into the fourth quarter, cutting Barrington’s deficit to 11, 48-37. But Sawyer had an answer, grabbing her own rebound and finishing an and-one bucket and free throw. The next possession, Sawyer found Ava Bardic for an open triple, opening up a 17-point lead. Sawyer shot 11-of-17 from the floor, adding five rebounds and five steals. Bardic scored 13 points, including three three-pointers. Kate Arne scored 8 points and Emory Klatt added 9 rebounds

“My freshman and sophomore year we didn’t make it past regionals,” Sawyer said. “We never won a regional. We never got it that far. Last year got canceled because of COVID. I think we could have gone far last year, we had good record … we knew this was our last run, our last chance at it.”

Sawyer scored 12 of Stevenson’s first 14 points as the Patriots raced to a 16-4 lead after a quarter and a 34-17 halftime lead. Sawyer had scored just two points on free throws and missed all eight of her field goals in a semifinal, 36-28 win over Benet Academy.

“It took us a while to get acclimated last night, but I knew this was coming,” Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said of the slow shooting night versus Benet. “It wasn’t going to happen twice.”

“She’s so mentally tough to bounce back like that,” Graham said of Sawyer. “She said that’s not going to happen twice. She’s just so talented.”

Finding her shot in the state title was what propelled the Patriots to the title. 

“It feels good knowing I’m going to be playing on these stages next year,” Sawyer, a Penn basketball signee, said. 

Swanson struggled with Stevenson blanketing her with several defenders throughout the first half. Two quick fouls by Swanson hurt the Fillies as well, as they had to play without their junior superstar scorer who put up 35 points in a semifinal win over Bolingbrook. 

“I told the kids, as sad as they are and as hard as it is, ‘Keep your head up high and recognize we’re the second-best team in 4A state,’” Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro said. “That means something. We played in a hell of a conference. Carmel won their (3A championship) game, we beat Carmel, we played some really good teams this year and we had a lot of success.”

Swanson, junior Purdue verbal commit, scored 14 and sophomore forward Molly O’Riordan added 12 points and seven rebounds. 

“I love my kids and they never give up,” Barreiro said. “They didn’t give up. We battled, we just didn’t java some things go our way. … Stevenson executed offensively pretty well.”

Stevenson went 36-2, 14-0 in conference play and finished the season 4A state champs. Doing it with senior teammate Bardic at her side made it all the sweeter for Sawyer. 

“We couldn’t have a better ending,” Sawyer said. 

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