The experience of playing in the 52nd annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament is one Stevenson senior Andy Stempel will likely never forget. His performance in Friday's quarterfinal against Maine South was one that the Hawks coach Tony Lavorato Jr. won't soon forget, either.
In the fourth quarter and his team leading 44-41 with 2:07 left, Stempel took a perfect pass from teammate Matt Morrissey and drained a huge 3-pointer. It was the second such combination of pass and score from Morrissey to Stempel, and it proved to be enough to lift the Patriots into the semifinals in their inaugural visit to the tournament with a 54-51 win over Maine South.
Stevenson will face Chicago Public League powerhouse Morgan Park in an 8 p.m. semifinal Saturday. Maine South will face Bogan in a consolation game a 3:45 p.m.
"I'll tell you what. The kid who hit the big 3 in my mind was Stempel," Lavorato Jr. said. "We stopped (Jalen) Brunson, they kicked it out and he hit a huge 3 to put them back up 6."
Stempel's other big 3-pointer came early in the first quarter when the Patriots were struggling for offense. Though it brought Stevenson (10-2) to within a point, it was a much-needed basket.
"(Maine South) started to get more aggressive with their trap and we found an opening," said Stempel, who finished with 12 points. "Matt (Morrissey) had the ball and he is such an unselfish player and he hit me with a great pass and I just hit the shot."
The Patriots took control of the game early in the fourth quarter and Brunson made sure that it stayed that way. Every time Maine South (11-2) made a run, Brunson answered. In particular, during the final four minutes, Brunson nailed a pair of long 3-pointers to help Stevenson continue to build the margin at 44-39.
Brunson finished with his best offensive effort of the tournament scoring a game-high 23 points, 11 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.
"I've always had a big dream of playing on the big stage," Brunson said. "I know I can't let myself get down when I miss a couple of shots and I just followed through better at the end on the last few shots. We came here to win this thing. We know we are an underdog here."
With fellow sophomore Connor Cashaw (10 points) in foul trouble early, Stempel and Brunson kept the offense moving. But it was additional contributions from Morrissey (4 points) and Parker Nichols (5 points) that made the biggest difference.
"We had good contributions by all of our kids," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "With the kind of foul trouble we had, kids have got to step up and they did tonight."
Maine South took the lead back from Stevenson by outscoring the Patriots 18-13 in the third quarter. Senior John Solari scored 11 of his team-best 15 points in the second half for the Hawks. Fellow senior Frank Dounis added 9 of his 12 points in the second half.