A couple of Nathan Marcus' future football coaches at Vanderbilt University came to watch the all-state tight end play basketball at Stevenson on Tuesday night.
Another dandy was on display for Vandy, too.
Matt Morrissey, an all-state football player himself, and his Stevenson teammates prevailed in an appropriately physical battle. The Patriots received a game-high 21 points and 8 rebounds from sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson in a 61-47 nonconference win that stretched their winning streak to six games.
"That was a tough game," said Morrissey, a junior who's been offered football scholarships by Illinois and Toledo. The scrappy, 6-foot-3 forward scored 9 points, including a 3-pointer, hustled for 3 offensive boards and came up with 3 steals. Connor Cashaw added a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds for Stevenson (16-4).
"We came out a little slow," Morrissey added. "But they're a good team and they got us early. We just had to fight back."
Glenbard West (10-8) hit its first four shots, including 3s from Keith Hayes (team-high 13 points) and Dikiria Washington, in building a 10-2 lead. But while the Hilltoppers couldn't maintain that pace, going 4 of 16 from the floor the rest of the half, they stayed in the game the whole time thanks to a physical, man-to-man defense.
If that kind of "D" resembled Stevenson's kind of "D," don't consider it a coincidence.
Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder and Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose are tight. They were basketball teammates at Augustana College and even roommates for a couple of years. Their wives are sorority sisters.
"He set some good screens for me," Ambrose, the former guard, said with a smile.
"We really try to model ourselves (defensively) after what Pat does here," Hoder said. "They're so impressive defensively. We're not always going to have the most talented offensive kids, but we think we can come out and defend, and that will at least keep us in games if we play really hard."
A pair of baskets by Cashaw helped Stevenson take a 26-21 lead into halftime, and Brunson's 5 points, including his second 3, were key in helping the Patriots extend their cushion to 43-34 after three.
Marcus' aggressive play and physical presence continued to keep Glenbard West close, as he scored 6 of his 8 points in the second half.
"That was one of the best defensive teams we've played this season." said Hilltoppers junior point guard Corey Davis, who along with backcourt mate Washington and center Sean Jenner scored 6 points. "They're very physical, and we weren't ready for it. Our coach told us they were going to be physical, but we didn't think that much."
Brunson couldn't get a shot to drop in the final quarter (0 of 5), but he helped keep Glenbard West from getting too close on the scoreboard by going 5 of 7 from the line.
"He's really nice," said Davis, who guarded Brunson a good portion of the night. "He has some quick hands. I was just trying to give him some space, and then I would wait for him to come to me. I tried to use my length because he pulls up a lot."
"I thought we did a real nice job on some of their ball screens and things they like to do," Hoder said. "We just didn't play well enough offensively."
Stevenson's offense didn't sizzle either. The reason? Glenbard West.
"They gave us little fits," Ambrose said. "We just didn't shoot as well."