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Full recovery for Stevenson against Z-B
 

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Full recovery for Stevenson against Z-B
  • Stevenson's Matt Johnson splits Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough, left, and Fred Calvert during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Matt Johnson splits Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough, left, and Fred Calvert during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  •  Stevenson's Sam Panitch, left, and Zion Benton's Chris Moragne fight for a loose ball during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Sam Panitch, left, and Zion Benton's Chris Moragne fight for a loose ball during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  •  Stevenson's Jalen Brunson, middle, splits Zion Benton's Mubarak Bakr, left, and Milik Yarbrough during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Jalen Brunson, middle, splits Zion Benton's Mubarak Bakr, left, and Milik Yarbrough during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  •  Stevenson's Cameron Green, right, and Zion-Benton's Maurice Young hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Cameron Green, right, and Zion-Benton's Maurice Young hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  •  Stevenson's Sam Panitch (5) celebrates with Matt Morrissey, left, and Matt Johnson during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Sam Panitch (5) celebrates with Matt Morrissey, left, and Matt Johnson during NSC Lake play Friday night at Stevenson. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

It could have been some bad fast food from earlier in the afternoon.

"Or it might have been this morning's breakfast," Stevenson star guard Jalen Brunson said. "It might be the stomach flu. I just didn't feel good the entire game."

Story Continues Below

But Brunson did his best on Friday night to ignore his weak stomach and guide Stevenson to an 81-63 North Suburban Conference victory over Zion-Benton in front of a standing-room-only crowd that included admirers such as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and the entire coaching staff from the University of Illinois.

Ironically, there were stomach problems of another sort the first time Stevenson played the Zee-Bees. Matt Johnson had pains at the pit of his stomach during that game.

He had gotten ejected from the championship game of the Proviso West holiday tournament against Morgan Park in late December. He was forced to sit out the next game, which, due to weather cancellations, was Stevenson showdown at Zion-Benton on Jan. 10.

The Patriots lost that game by 1 point, 70-69. It remains the only loss of their season.

"I really let my teammates down the first time we played (Zion-Benton)," Johnson said. "I had a pain in my stomach because I couldn't play. I knew next time I had to come out with a vengeance and play as hard as I could."

Let's just say Friday's effort was one that Johnson could easily stomach.

He was the difference-maker this time, rolling up a game-and career-high 26 points on five 3-pointers.

The Patriots move to 20-1 overall and 8-1 in the North Suburban Lake while Zion-Benton drops to 20-2 and 9-1.

"Jalen (Brunson) and Connor (Cashaw) drove really well and (the Zion-Benton defense was) really collapsing. I was able to find open spots and they found me. I kept shooting and it just happened to be my night."

It didn't take long for the rest of the Patriots to follow suit.

Cashaw got hot and poured in 24 points. And Brunson finished with 20 points as Stevenson stretched a 5-point lead to as many as 15 points in the decisive third quarter.

For the game, the Patriots connected on 11-of-21 3-pointers for a sizzling 52 percent from long range.

"People have said we have the best backcourt in the state and I don't disagree," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, referring to Brunson (three 3-pointers) and Cashaw (two 3-pointers). "And then Matt (Stevenson's other guard) had a great game, too.

"He's just a special kid. He has no fear and a little bit of a swagger to him. He wants to run with (Brunson and Cashaw) and they have made Matt a lot better."

Stevenson's "Big Three" scored 18 of Stevenson's 22 first-quarter points. The Patriots took a slim 22-20 lead into the second quarter.

While Stevenson hit nothing but 3-pointers (4-for-8) in the second quarter, Zion-Benton missed on its only long-range attempt and fell behind 38-33 at halftime.

The Patriots used a nice mix of drives to the basket and 3-point shooting in the third quarter to begin their separation. They also hit all 7 of their free throws in the period en route to a 62-51 advantage heading into the fourth.

"We had the mindset going in that we're a really good team and we prepared really hard for this game," Brunson said. "We took care of business. Having Matt on the floor this time really spread the floor for us and we had a nice motion offense going.

"It was a really good environment to play in. Our students and fans brought a lot of intensity to the game. All of us players knew it was a big game and we all brought a lot of intensity to the game, too."

Milik Yarbrough paced Zion-Benton with 21 points while teammate Admiral Schofield added 15 points with two 3-pointers.

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