It was the best of comebacks for Zion-Benton.
It was the most disappointing of finishes for Stevenson.
This tale of two shots -- the one that fell for the Zee-Bees with eight seconds remaining, and the one that failed to drop for the Patriots in the final second -- ended with host Zion-Benton squeezing out a 56-55 win Friday night in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division opener for both teams. And it left Patriots fans trying like the dickens to figure out how it slipped away.
When Zee-Bees senior guard Dorsey Cadette nailed his third 3-pointer of the game with only 8 ticks left for a 1-point advantage, it marked the first lead for the home team since the opening quarter. Stevenson sophomore guard Jalen Brunson, who had missed the last two games due to injury, took the subsequent inbounds pass and drove nearly the entire length of the court. Bursting through several defenders, he tossed up an off-balance shot that did everything except fall through the hoop as time expired.
"It looked like it was going to be good to me, but it just didn't drop," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "Jalen physically did some nice things for us and so did Connor (Cashaw), but we've got to get more players contributing."
Brunson scored a game-high 19 points, sophomore guard Cashaw pumped in 18 and junior forward Matthew Morrissey added 10. All seven of the Patriots' 3-pointers, including 3 by Cashaw, came in the first half.
"Because we were down (33-26) at the half, we knew we had to start putting more pressure on the ball," said 24thyear Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth. "Stevenson is an outstanding team and they shot very well in the first half. They pose many problems."
Zee-Bees star Milik Yarbrough, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior, was held in check most of the night by a tough Stevenson defense. But he took charge late, scoring 9 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter. And it was the big guy's dish to Cadette that set up the winning 3-pointer.
"Yarbrough got a little more aggressive late in the game and our defense broke down," Cashaw said. "I felt like we let up in the second half. We should have come out stronger. But this is going to end up being a good loss for us because we're going to learn from it. We're going to end up being better because of it."
Following a see-saw first quarter, Stevenson rode Brunson's 9 second-quarter points to a 7-point halftime lead. The Patriots were still up by 7 heading into the final stanza and by five with three minutes left before the Zee-Bees buzzed back to tie it at 53. Cashaw's pair of free throws with 25.4 seconds on the clock put the Patriots ahead 55-53, but Cadette's 3-pointer concluded the scoring.
"I'm not disappointed in our effort, but I am disappointed in the result," Ambrose said. "I thought we had some good things going on and we really dug in there, but we couldn't finish it."