Class 4A Northern Illinois University supersectional championship
No. 2 Rockford Auburn Knights (28-5) vs. No. 1 Stevenson Patriots (30-1)When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Northern Illinois University Convocation Center
Rockford Auburn's road to the supersectional: Seeded second in the five-team Rockford Boylan regional, Rockford Auburn defeated Rockton Hononegah, 61-45 and Rockford Boylan, 73-56. At the Elgin sectional, Rockford Auburn defeated Huntley, 61-49 and South Elgin, 83-73.
Stevenson's road to the supersectional: At the McHenry regional, Stevenson defeated McHenry, 65-38 and Warren, 79-59. At the Lake Zurich sectional, Stevenson defeated St. Viator, 84-73 and Fremd, 63-48.
Rockford Auburn's tournament history: Rockford Auburn's best finish was a third-place showing in the state finals in the 2011-12 season. The Knights have won three sectional titles in the last four years.
Stevenson's tournament history: Stevenson has been downstate twice in the last seven years. The Patriots placed fourth in 2006-07 and finished as the state runner-up last season.
Conference champs: Both Rockford Auburn and Stevenson claimed conference championships this season. Rockford Auburn won the NIC-10 title while Stevenson won the North Suburban Conference championship.
Coaches: Bryan Ott, Rockford Auburn; Pat Ambrose, Stevenson
Milestone for Ambrose: In Stevenson's win over Fremd on Friday, Ambrose notched the 300th win of his 15-year coaching career. Ambrose has spent his entire career as a head coach at Stevenson.
Outlook: Both Rockford Auburn and Stevenson were pushed in their respective sectional championship games. Against South Elgin, Rockford Auburn faced a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter. The Knights used a couple of bursts in the fourth quarter to finally take control of the game. "What I'm most proud of is how we responded when we got down 10 points," Rockford Auburn coach Bryan Ott said … For Stevenson, a disciplined and previously unbeaten Fremd team kept the game tight through much of the first three quarters. The Patriots finally began to pull away at the end of the third when star guard Jalen Brunson hit a big 3-pointer and Connor Cashaw came up with a steal. Brunson, who finished with 27 points, and Cashaw, who tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds, are both junior guards who are being heavily scouted by college coaches. Stevenson head coach Pat Ambrose has called Brunson and Cashaw, along with junior guard Matt Johnson, the "best backcourt in the state." … Rockford Auburn ultimately placed five players in double-figures against South Elgin. Three juniors led the way. Nylek Cobb had 19 points, Antoine Pittman had 18 points and Laytwan Porter had 16 points. Seniors Malik Minor and Zavious Hoover added 13 and 10 points respectively … Both Rockford Auburn and Stevenson can drain big shots from downtown. Rockford Auburn had seven 3-pointers against South Elgin while Stevenson rang up a school-record 13 3-pointers against St. Viator in the sectional semifinal … Both Rockford Auburn and Stevenson can also keep the scoreboard moving. Offensively, the two teams are averaging about 70 and 75 points in the state tournament, respectively … Rockford Auburn is trying to get back downstate after a little hiccup last year. The Knights finished third in Class 4A in 2011-12 with a 32-3 record, but went just 17-12 last year. Meanwhile, Stevenson is trying to get downstate for the second straight year. The Patriots lost to Simeon last year in the Class 4A state championship, 58-40. Jabari Parker, now a star freshman at Duke, led Simeon with 20 points while Jalen Brunson had a team-high 14 points for Stevenson … When told of Friday's victory over Fremd being the 300th in the career of head coach Pat Ambrose, Stevenson guard Connor Cashaw said: "We didn't find out until after the game (about Ambrose's milestone). "This is just a blessing to be in this position. But we aren't satisfied as of yet."
Up next: Tuesday's winner at NIU advances to Friday's 6:30 p.m. Class 4A state semifinal at Carver Arena in the Peoria Civic Center and will face the winner of Tuesday's Chicago State supersectional between Whitney Young and Loyola Academy.
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw