The rubber game between Lake Forest and Stevenson had a little more on the line on Friday evening with a regional title up for grabs.
The host Scouts led from wire to wire over the fourth seed Patriots 51-46, taking the season series and the regional crown.
“You play a team three times, and it’s tough,” said Lake Forest head coach Kyle Wilhelm. “Ashley (Graham) knows what we’re going to do, they are very well prepared. We know what they are going to do, we talked a lot about their personnel and we did a great job executing and keeping them off those three’s.”
While there were certainly questions about Lake Forest’s young starting lineup going into the game, the opening baskets of the game by freshmen Rachel Kraus and Bella Ranallo settled any nerves quickly, and were in important facet of Lake Forest’s early lead, especially with Halle Douglass struggling early.
Stevenson cut into the early deficit later in the half behind Simone Sawyer’s persinoal 5-0 run to bring the Patriots within two, but the Lake Forest defense held strong to go into the half with a lead.
After the break, neither team was able to pull away from one another. Stevenson forced three ties at 27, 29 and 32 but were never able to take the lead.
Lake Forest finally broke through with a 7-0 run towards the end of the quarter, which turned out to be all the cushion that they would need.
In the final frame, it was Ranallo yet again who picked up right where she left off to extend the Lake Forest lead to their largest of the game at 45-34.
“That’s not even the most impressive thing to me,” said Wilhelm on his freshman. “How many jump balls did she force? How many possessions did she steal away? We talked before the game about getting 50-50 balls and loose balls and Bella was unbelievable. She was jumping screens, getting loose balls, diving in there for jump balls, those are differences in the game.”
Stevenson made a run at it late with a 7-0 to pull within four, but that’s as close as the Patriots would get as Lake Forest was able to control the ball despite heavy pressure from Stevenson.
Despite being held to just three field goals, Lake Forest was once again led in scoring by Halle Douglass with 19 points. Lake Forest’s Molly Fisher contributed 13 points and Ranallo finished with a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“Don’t tell me height matters,” Wilhelm joked. “She wants it, when that ball goes up she is already plotting how she is going to get the ball. It’s just desire and will. She was unbelievable.”
“It’s just how much you want the ball, it’s about how much you are willing to fight for it.” added Ranallo, and as for winning the regional as a freshman who played all 32 “It’s amazing, it’s a great feeling.”
Stevenson’s sophomore duo led the Patriots. Ava Bardic had 16 points and Sawyer added 15 points and 8 rebounds.
Lake Forest will get right back at it returning to action against top seeded Hersey at Palatine at 6:00 on Monday evening.