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Article updated: 12/26/2012 5:47 PM
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Brunson's big shot lifts Stevenson past Hinsdale Central
 

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Brunson's big shot lifts Stevenson past Hinsdale Central
Rusty Silber

Earlier this season, Stevenson's Jalen Brunson had chances to close out a couple of games.

It didn't happen for him then, but Brunson picked a bigger stage for his first game-winning shot on Wednesday afternoon.

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Brunson's clutch bucket gave Stevenson a 56-54 victory over Hinsdale Central in the opening game of the 52nd Annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament in Hillside.

"It was my first made game-winner in my high school career," said Brunson, a sophomore. "I had missed two others, but I was happy to get this one. I knew this one was a new time, and I just finished it out."

Stevenson (8-2) found itself tied with just under a minute left and decided to hold the ball for a final shot. Brunson had the ball in his hands and made it happen by hitting jumper from the free throw line with just over three seconds left.

"It wasn't a drawn-up play," Brunson said. "We just ran four down for an isolation and a last-second shot. It's something I work on, thinking everything I do is a last-second shot. It felt good going in.

"My goal is to play off my instinct. It was my favorite move, a crossover step-back pull-up. I do work on it a lot."

Patriots coach Pat Ambrose saw the situation and relied on what he knew his team could do in crunch time.

"We were looking to be aggressive," Ambrose said. "We also noticed that they weren't pressing us outside. So we didn't need to press it, and help the ball for just one shot. We figured that we wouldn't lose with the one shot.

"I trust (Brunson) with the ball and it was a tough shot. We do also have a couple other kids that can do it."

Hinsdale Central (5-4) attempted a 3 in the waning seconds. The Patriots' Connor Cashaw (20 points and rebounds) got a partial block on the shot. The Red Devils got another shorter shot that drew iron but did not go through the hoop.

Stevenson started out strong, hitting a barrage of 3-pointers in the first quarter to lead 16-4 after Cashaw dropped one in with 1:31 left. The Pats made 10 of 19 3s in the game.

Hinsdale Central recovered to trail 16-13 at the end of the quarter and the game was tied 29-29 at the break.

The Patriots couldn't find the basket for five minutes into the third quarter, while the Red Devils scored 10 straight points and opened a 39-29 advantage.

But Stevenson put forth fullcourt pressure and closed out the period with a 10-5 run to trail 44-39 heading into the final quarter.

"We had a hard time handling (Stevenson's) pressure," Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre said. "We kind of got passive and let their halfcourt pressure get to us. We just let out of our attack mode and I think that was the difference of the game right there."

Hinsdale Central turned the ball over 13 times in the second half and had 17 for the game.

The Red Devils were led by Matt Rafferty with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

Stevenson next plays St. Charles East in the round of 16 at 3:45 p.m. Thursday at Proviso West.

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