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Article updated: 12/29/2011 11:17 PM
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Defense does it for Stevenson
 

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Defense does it for Stevenson
  • Stevenson's Alex Diamond draws the foul from Notre Dame's Duante Stephens and Justin Halloran in the first quarter as he drives under the basket during tournament semifinal action Thursday at Wheeling.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Alex Diamond draws the foul from Notre Dame's Duante Stephens and Justin Halloran in the first quarter as he drives under the basket during tournament semifinal action Thursday at Wheeling. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  •  Stevenson's Jalen Brunson collides with Notre Dame's Donte Stephenson in the second quarter and the ball is scooped up by Stephenson in tournament semifinal play Thursday at Wheeling.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Jalen Brunson collides with Notre Dame's Donte Stephenson in the second quarter and the ball is scooped up by Stephenson in tournament semifinal play Thursday at Wheeling. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Howard Schlossberg

Your best shooters aren't hitting. Your inside players are getting outrebounded, and they're in foul trouble.

Your team fouls and turnovers are piling up.

Story Continues Below

Not to worry, if you're Stevenson.

The Patriots, relying on their trademark defense, held off a taller, talented Notre Dame squad 58-49 Thursday night in the semifinals of the Wildcat Hardwood Classic at Wheeling to move into tonight's championship against Naperville Central at 8:45 p.m.

"We've got to play defense," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, after 'D' carried his team to a difficult win for the second straight night.

The Pats (10-1) were shooting selectively against the opponent's "trees" around the basket and made 17 of 36 field goal attempts, but they got few second chances against the taller Dons (11-3). That mandated some Stevenson in-your-face defense to offset the height disadvantage.

Notre Dame shot 19 of 43 from the floor and a painful 10 of 22 at the line.

A key fourth-quarter sequence helped provide the cushion for Stevenson. Leading 43-40 after a Notre Dame run had reduced a double-digit third-quarter lead, a bench technical on the Dons along with a personal foul and a jumper from Jalen Brunson (21 points) gave Stevenson a 4-point possession, making it a 7-point lead and give the Pats all the momentum.

After the Dons missed 2 free throws, Michael Fleming (12 points), who nailed the two technical tosses, added two more in a period that included 30 free throw attempts.

Notre Dame got within 4 late, but Fleming's twisting fastbreak layup and Andy Stempel's pair of free tosses iced it.

It was a gratifying win on a night when sharpshooter Fleming struggled with his touch and his touches against lightning-quick Donte Stephenson. And Stevenson struggled to contain jumping-jack forward Duante Stephens (17 points).

But Fleming clamped down on Dons sharpshooter Matt Mooney while the Patriots' Matt Morrissey, Colby Cashaw and Stempel got help from Andy Diamond and Adam Cohen off the bench against Notre Dame's tall lineup.

Brunson, a freshman, carried the load offensively with a dazzling mix of pull-up jumpers and flashes to the basket off the dribble -- even past Stephens, whom the Dons finally designated to contain him.

"He's one piece of the puzzle," Ambrose said of Brunson.

Fleming is among many on the team who provide Brunson with guidance.

"Fleming is definitely mentoring him," Ambrose said of his senior team leader.

Whatever he's doing for him, it's working. Brunson's maturity has grown incrementally each game of this tough tournament.

So is Stevenson's collective team maturity. Two freshmen (Brunson and Connor Cashaw), a sophomore (Morrissey) and four juniors (Justin Berkson, Stempel, Cohen and Danny Nowak) all played significant roles and significant minutes in the win.

"This is the third round of a four-day tournament," Ambrose noted. "Someone has to step up."

And everyone has to play defense.

"That's a constant," said Ambrose.

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