Two early fouls forced Stevenson junior Matt Johnson to take a front-row seat and watch Warren senior guard Eric Gillespie put on a sizzling first-half shooting display in Saturday night's North Suburban Lake boys basketball game.
Johnson was going to make sure the big crowd in Lincolnshire and ESPN3 television audience had seen enough. Johnson nearly shut out Gillespie when he was guarding him in the second half as the Patriots rolled to a 66-51 victory.
"Any time I'm not out there helping my teammates I feel bad," Johnson said. "I knew in the second half I had to come in and do whatever I could to help them out."
Gillespie scored the final 5 of his 20 points in the last 40 seconds after Stevenson (18-1, 6-1) had built a 22-point lead and pulled its starters. Gillespie's only other second-half basket was a transition drive 35 seconds into the fourth quarter.
"Matt brings a lot to the table," said Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson, who scored half of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and had 7 rebounds and 6 assists. "He's a good all-around player and he really stepped in for us tonight."
Consecutive 3s by Gillespie got Warren (15-9, 4-5) within 25-21 with 3:40 left in the first half. But after going 3-for-4 behind the arc and 5-for-7 from the field in a 13-point first half, Gillespie missed his next five 3s and 6 of 7 from the field.
"He's a good player and I tried to be physical with him," Johnson said. "He's a good shooter and I tried to get a hand up every time he shot. Most of my role is to try to guard one of the best guards on the other team and I take pride in that."
Johnson also went 3-for-4 from behind the arc and Brunson hit three 3s. Connor Cashaw scored 9 of his 15 points in the second quarter and had 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and Matt Morrissey had 10 points and 3 assists.
"Matt Johnson did a nice job on (Gillespie)," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "Matt would be a star on a lot of teams and he would be a guy who would be featured offensively. He's a role player for us on offense, but defensively he's more than a role player, he's a stopper."
Stevenson shot 52.4 percent from the field (22-for-42) and 8-for-19 on 3s against Warren's 3-2 zone. The Patriots also had a 28-15 rebound advantage and held the Blue Devils to 40.5 percent shooting from the floor (17-for-42) and 6-for-22 behind the arc.
"It was pretty cut and dried, they made open shots and we didn't," said Warren coach Ryan Webber. "We have to try to fine tune some things offensively and from a defensive standpoint we have to shore some things up."
Greg Swane added 14 points for Warren, which lost the first meeting with Stevenson by 1 point. The Patriots also got some big minutes from Cameron Green (6 points) and Ryan Rosenbaum (2 points, 5 rebounds).
"It wasn't just Matt (Johnson) playing well, everyone was playing well," Brunson said. "Since we got everyone back at full strength, we started practicing hard together and everyone has just clicked."