Stevenson sophomore Jalen Brunson has hit his share of big shots in just a little more than a season on the Patriots basketball team. But on Friday night, Brunson was more than happy admiring the big 3-pointers that came from teammate Matt Morrissey.
Morrissey struck early, burying a pair 3-pointers during a 12-0 run to open a key North Suburban Conference Lake Division contest with visiting Zion-Benton. But his long arching 3-pointer on a feed from teammate Andy Stempel that Morrissey called "a champion's pass," fired up Brunson and the rest of the Patriot teammates.
Though he finished with just 9 points, all of them counted in a 66-56 win for Stevenson over Zion on Friday night.
The win lifts the Patriots to a first-place tie with Zion-Benton in the NSC Lake at 5-2. Stevenson is 13-4 overall and Zion is 14-4.
"It was great to see Matt hit that shot because I know how hard he and the rest of my teammates have worked," said Brunson, who led all scorers with 26 points and 13 rebounds. "That shot was huge and he deserved to hit it."
The beginning of the game couldn't have gone much better for the Patriots. Stevenson opened up with a 12-0 burst.
"I felt like we didn't get off to a very good start tonight," said Zion coach Don Kloth. "Stevenson was really aggressive early, but I thought we recovered well and did a good job getting back into the game before halftime."
Zion, and especially Malik Yarbrough, whittled the Stevenson lead down with a 12-2 burst that extended into the second quarter. The Bees even captured the lead briefly behind Yarbrough's 15 first-half points.
"Zion is a good team and Yarbrough is a heck of a player so we knew they would recover and make a run at us," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "We know they are too good of a team to not make a run."
The teams traded punches much of the third quarter before Stevenson finally started to pull away in the final quarter. A 4-point play from junior Connor Cashaw helped Stevenson build its lead to 51-45 with 5:23 left, which set up the big play from Morrissey. Cashaw had another solid performance with 19 points and 12 boards.
"It just comes in the scheme of the offense," Morrissey said. "I know that with Jalen and Connor, teams are going to concentrate on them so I have to be ready to move without the ball and when I get my shot I have to take it."
Morrissey got his chance with Stevenson clinging to a 51-49 advantage with 3:51 left. Good ball movement led to Stempel finding Morrissey on the far right wing. His long arching shot sliced through the net moving the lead back to a 5-point advantage.
"We have kids that are confident enough to shoot and when they get that chance they take good shots like Matt did," Ambrose said.
Less than a minute after the shot from Morrissey was a fifth foul whistled on Yarbrough signaling the beginning of the end for Zion. Yarbrough scored 10 of his 25 points in the second half but none in the final quarter. Yarbrough also hauled down 12 boards for the Bees who hit just 1 field goal in the final four minutes.