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Fans will see even better performances in the future from maturing St. Charles East sophomore Kendall Stephens, but his showing in Monday's 76-46 victory over winless Willowbrook at the second annual Woodstock North MLK Classic was his most impressive to date.
The 6-foot-4 guard -- already offered scholarships by Northwestern, Wisconsin and DePaul, according to his father Everette Stephens, himself a former Purdue Boilermaker, Milwaukee Buck and Indiana Pacer -- scored a career-best 31 points to go with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot.
Stephens sank 10 of 16 attempts from the field, 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He did the bulk of his damage from the perimeter, but he also scored on drives, baseline runners, putbacks and in transition, demonstrating an improving all-around game.
"Last year I was more of a shooter," Stephens said. "I feel like I've expanded my game. I want to improve every year."
There's a reason Stephens keeps improving.
"Kendall works so hard in the gym," St. Charles East coach Brian Clodi said. "He takes more shots than anybody. We just saw from the get-go he was going, so we played through him. Every play was through him and we were trying to get it to him in transition.
"He makes you look good when he's in a rhythm like that. He wanted the ball and he felt like he could score every time he touched the ball, so it was great to see that."
No other Saint scored in double digits but none had to. Guard Spencer Motley and 6-foot-5 forward Johnny Hondlik each scored 8 points for St. Charles East (7-9), which made Willowbrook (0-16) its third straight victim.
"We're getting better every game and we're starting to become more of a team now," Motley said. "When you have a player like Kendall, he makes everyone on the team better. It's just a lot easier to play around a guy like that who can shoot the ball at the high level that he does."
The Warriors were led by 6-foot-6 junior Ryan Rader, who scored 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Willowbrook was still within 11 points of the lead at halftime (37-28). But Stephens, who played the second half with his thumb taped because he jammed it at the end of the second quarter, poured in 12 points as the Saints won the third quarter 21-8.
"We play hard in stretches. We have intensity in stretches," Willowbrook coach John Constable said. "We have not figured out a consistent lineup of five guys who can play hard for four quarters.
"It's frustrating to do some of the things we did right in the first half execution-wise and not have to alter our game plan too much, then have such a lack of focus and a lack of execution in the second half. It's fundamental things like passing into the hands of the defense. Our basketball IQ has got to get better, bottom line."