There's one thing you can scratch off Stevenson's boys basketball check list early into this season. After blowing double-digit leads, the Patriots can still hang tough for a victory.
Stevenson led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, withstood a 16-2 run by Elgin in the second quarter and then an 18-14 Elgin third quarter that gave the Maroons a 44-43 edge going into the final 8 minutes. Stevenson had enough at the end, though, to come away with a 61-56 win at the Bison Classic at Buffalo Grove Tuesday night.
The Patriots (2-0) sank 14 of 24 free throws in the fourth, which included making their first 10, and held Elgin without a shot until 2:39 remained in the game. A lot of those free throws came when Stevenson also had to look for another way to score when leading scorer Jalen Brunson was forced out of the game after a menacing screen during an inbounds play with 1:14 reminding.
But even without their star, the Patriots refused to give up.
"It was good for us to come back in the game," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "When we were down, we came back. We have enough intestinal fortitude to not fall apart at that point. Kind of stepped back able to make some buckets and also get to the free throw line and stick some free throws early on in that run to build a little bit of a lead. They're a tough team, they'll come back at you."
Brunson knocked down the first three 3-point shots he attempted in the first quarter and finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds. But Elgin came back long before the sophomore was forced out of the game.
Coming out of the half down 3, Elgin, which cut a 15-point lead to 1 in the second quarter, used an Isaiah Bulter (10 points, 3 steals) steal and dunk to make it a 3-point game. Then Butler penetrated from the outside on the Maroons' next possession for a layup to make it 41-40. Arie Williams, who had a game-high 24 points, scored on a layup with 30 seconds left in the third to give Elgin its first lead of the night at 44-43 with 30 seconds in the third quarter.
"I learned a lot more of my team tonight than I did (Monday) night," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "We will battle back from any deficit, from any situation with hostile fans, situations with foul trouble or situations with referees. We'll battle back from anything and that's all you want from 17-year-old kids."
But it took nearly 5 minutes for Elgin to knock down a field goal in the fourth. And in foul trouble, Stevenson, which only converted on 1 basket in the fourth, used its rebounding and free throws to take control of the game. Stevenson outrebounded Elgin 28-16 and was 25 of 36 from the line.
"Stevenson basketball, it's all always what coach Ambrose preaches -- rebounding, play defense and when you get your chance, knock down those free throws at the end," said the Patriots' Matt Morrissey, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and a big block at the end when Elgin furiously tried to play catch up.
Elgin got the lead down to 3 at 59-56 with 46 seconds remaining, but Stevenson sealed the game at the line.
Andrew Stempel poured in 11 points and 8 rebounds while Stevenson was 16 for 39 from the field. Elgin shot 20 of 48 from the field.