Ejected from the championship game of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament after a late-third quarter altercation with Morgan Park's Torry Johnson, Stevenson's Matt Johnson watched the rest of the game with his family in the upstairs bleachers.
His teammates then jacked up their play even higher than the Patriot's perch.
Immediately after the dismissal of both Johnsons, Jalen Brunson scored 5 points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put Stevenson up by 4, and the Patriots led the entire fourth quarter en route to a 67-55 win over the defending champs in the finale of the 53rd annual showcase in Hillside on Tuesday night.
"We got fired up," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said of his team's response following the ejections. "But we kept our calm."
The historic win -- no Lake County team had ever won the prestigious tournament -- hiked Stevenson's record to 13-0, including 5-0 at Proviso West. At game's end, the Patriots were showered with confetti and received black Air Jordan championship caps. Brunson, who had a game-high 23 points and 9 rebounds, was named MVP, while Connor Cashaw was also named first-team all-tournament.
"We're not satisfied," Cashaw said after scoring 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. "We just got to keep fighting hard."
In a tight game throughout, Morgan Park was running the ball upcourt late in third quarter when Johnson and Johnson tripped each other up near half-court. They hit the floor hard and then pushed each other while getting back on their feet. That's when hustling referees intervened and a commotion ensued on the court. Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin and his bench wound up getting a technical foul, and both Johnsons were ejected.
"I thought we were just going to get techs -- they would cancel out and maybe we would sit a little bit," Matt Johnson said. "But they didn't even give us a warning."
Brunson sank both technical free throws with 9.6 seconds on the clock, wiping out a 40-39 deficit. Then after a Morgan Park turnover, Brunson pulled up a drained a 3 to give Stevenson a 44-40 lead. Morgan Park never got closer than 3 points in the fourth, as Cashaw went 6 of 6 from the line, Matt Morrissey (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Cameron Green (8 points) each went 2 of 2, and Brunson split a pair. For the game, Stevenson was 21 of 23 from the line to set a title-game record that had stood since 1966.
"The way that third quarter ended, we really capitalized on it and were able to come out with the win," Brunson said.
Charlie Moore scored 13 points to lead four Morgan Park players in double figures. Josh Cunningham had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Mustangs.
"I thought the tournament went well," Irvin said. "But it's about the kids. It's not about me. Everybody knows that my team strives off my energy. And I wasn't there to give them the energy that we needed."
Matt Johnson finished with 10 points, including a pair of second-quarter 3-pointers that had Stevenson within 25-23 at halftime. The junior guard also had 4 assists and 2 steals.
"He's a great player," Cashaw said of his teammate. "He contributed as much as he could in the first half. (The altercation) was a tough play."
Proviso West Holiday Tournament
STEVENSON 67, MORGAN PARK 55
Morgan Park -- Moore 4 5-8 13, T. Johnson 1 2-5 4, Harris 4 3-4 11, Cunningham 5 1-2 11, Walker 4 0-0 10, Whatley 1 0-1 2, Randall 1 0-0 2, Burton 1 0-0 2, M. Johnson 0 0-0 0, Chatman 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 11-20 55.
Stevenson -- Cashaw 5 6-6 16, Nichols 2 0-0 4, Johnson 3 2-2 10, Brunson 7 7-9 23, Morrissey 2 2-2 6, Green 2 4-4 8, Rosenbaum 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 21-23 67.
Morgan Park 8 17 15 15 --55
Stevenson 10 13 21 23 --67
3-point baskets: MP: Walker 2; Stev: Johnson 2, Brunson 2.
Fouled out: MP: Walker.