Selecting a hero from Warren's thrilling 55-52 North Suburban Conference victory over visiting Stevenson Tuesday night might not be as easy as it seems.
Yes, senior guard Aarias Austin made amends for a costly fourth-quarter technical foul by draining a 3-pointer from the wing with 9.3 seconds remaining for a 53-52 lead before tacking on the final 2 points with a pair of free throws seven seconds later.
But junior forward Adrian Deere had been instrumental in providing the Blue Devils with a lead they held for much of the game, scoring 10 of his team-high 15 points in the first half.
And what about junior guard James Betori (11 points), who canned two of his trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including one that tied the contest at 50 shortly after Stevenson had grabbed its first lead since the second quarter?
Forgetting about Mitch Cygan would also be a mistake. The senior forward scored two clutch baskets early in the final stanza when the Patriots were making a run, corralled several key rebounds and took a charge in the waning moments that kept Stevenson at bay.
"A lot of different guys stepped up tonight," said first-year Warren coach Ryan Webber. "Our players executed tremendously on offense and hit the big shots when we needed them. Coming off two wins on the road last weekend and then having only 24 hours to prepare for a really good Stevenson team … that was a challenge for us, and we met it."
For the Patriots (4-2, 0-2), it was a sickening déjà vu experience in the Lake Division. As in Friday night's heartbreaking loss at Zion-Benton, it came down to a final shot by sophomore guard Jalen Brunson. Tuesday night his 3-point attempt to tie the game at the buzzer bounced off the back rim. On two other drives in the final minute, Brunson was whistled for a charge.
"Those were both very tough calls," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "We felt they could have gone one way, but I'm sure Warren felt they should have gone the way they did. It's a battle every night in this division. We played tough against a team that made some big shots and played an unusual zone. It will be a learning experience for us."
Sophomore guard Connor Cashaw poured in a game-high 21 points for the Patriots, while Brunson tallied 18 and senior guard Andrew Stempel contributed 9.
It marked the fifth consecutive win for the defending conference champion Blue Devils (6-2, 2-0), who lost plenty of talent from last season to graduation.
"Coming off last year, we were not expected to do much this season, and that put a chip on our shoulder," Cygan said. "We enjoy showing some people that they were wrong about us."
Austin, who scored 11 points for the winners including that big 3-pointer for the late lead, certainly enjoyed taking control in the final seconds.
"After I got the technical foul, coach challenged me in the huddle," Austin said. "I felt like it was my fault, and so I put the team on my back. I wanted the ball in that situation."