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Stevenson falls as the Brunson legend grows
 

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Stevenson falls as the Brunson legend grows
  • Stevenson's Jalen Brunson scores the first points of the game against Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. The Patriots junior guard set an all-time state tournament record with 56 points in a 75-68 loss.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson's Jalen Brunson scores the first points of the game against Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. The Patriots junior guard set an all-time state tournament record with 56 points in a 75-68 loss. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson bites his jersey while walking off the court with teammate Parker Nichols after the Patriots lost to Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson bites his jersey while walking off the court with teammate Parker Nichols after the Patriots lost to Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com  Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson and Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, right, talk after Whitney Young’s victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson and Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, right, talk after Whitney Young’s victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson puts his hands on his knees as teammate Cameron Green walks off the floor following a Class 4A state semifinal loss to Whitney Young at Carver Arena in Peoria.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson puts his hands on his knees as teammate Cameron Green walks off the floor following a Class 4A state semifinal loss to Whitney Young at Carver Arena in Peoria. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson covers his head with a towel after the Patriots lost to Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson covers his head with a towel after the Patriots lost to Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor looks on as teammate Miles Reynolds speaks with Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson after the Class 4A state semifinal at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor looks on as teammate Miles Reynolds speaks with Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson after the Class 4A state semifinal at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Connor Cashaw loses the ball as he is triple teamed by Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, right, Paul White and Rodney Herenton, left, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Connor Cashaw loses the ball as he is triple teamed by Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, right, Paul White and Rodney Herenton, left, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson tosses up the ball as he is fouled by Whitney Young’s Erwin Henry in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson tosses up the ball as he is fouled by Whitney Young’s Erwin Henry in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Matthew Johnson is blocked by Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Matthew Johnson is blocked by Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson is blocked out on a rebound by Whitney Young’s Paul White and Erwin Henry, right, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson is blocked out on a rebound by Whitney Young’s Paul White and Erwin Henry, right, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 

PEORIA -- ESPN would probably rule it an instant classic.

But by the time Jalen Brunson is able to fully appreciate what happened at Carver Arena on Friday night, or even watch a replay of it, for that matter, his warrior-like effort in the state semifinals might truly be a "classic classic."

"Probably when I'm 30 … maybe," Brunson said of when he might be able to sit back and enjoy watching what he was able to do in almost single-handedly leading Stevenson to a berth in the Class 4A state championship game.

Keyword: almost.

Even Brunson's 56 points, a state finals record for points in a game, wasn't enough for Stevenson. The Patriots were turned back by a taller, longer and more balanced Whitney Young team 75-68.

The Dolphins (27-5) will face Benet in Saturday's 8:15 p.m. state championship game. Stevenson, which drops to 31-2 and won't be able to at least match its second-place finish from last year, will take on Edwardsville in the 6:30 p.m. third-place game.

"This is going to sit with me for a while," said an emotional Brunson, chewing on the towel that he draped over his hanging head in the moments right after the final buzzer sounded.

Brunson scored all but 12 of Stevenson's points, and none of his teammates scored more than 4 points. Connor Cashaw, Matt Johnson and Matt Morrissey had 4 points apiece, accounting for the Patriots' only other scoring.

Meanwhile, Whitney Young, led by 6-foot-11 center Jahlil Okafor (33 points) and 6-foot-9 forward Paul White (15 points) put four players in double-figures. Erwin Henry added 11 points and Miles Reynolds had 10 points, including 8 free throws in the fourth quarter that helped ice the victory.

"We talked about with our team how we weren't that concerned about (Brunson) scoring points. That didn't bother us. Because we knew that with a prolific scorer, he's going to score points," Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. "But the tale of the tape, when you look at the stat sheet, is that they have no other player with more than 4 points. That was the ball game.

"No one player is going to beat this basketball team (Whitney Young). If he (Brunson) scores 60 points, we're going to score 66 points."

As Brunson left the floor at the end of the game, after a brief pause near half-court, bent over with his hands on his knees, fans around the stadium began to stand and clap for his extraordinary effort.

He scored 26 of his points in the fourth quarter as Stevenson, down by 9 points with less than four minutes to play, scrapped and fought to keep within arm's length. The Patriots cut the deficit to just 3 points (62-59) with 1:30 left.

Brunson, one of the most highly-recruited juniors in the state, took 30 shots, well more than half of Stevenson's 53 total field goals, and drained 16 of them. Included in his total was a 7-of-14 clip from 3-point range. He also hit 17 of 23 free throws.

Almost as gaudy was Okafor's stat line. The Duke-bound senior hit 13 of 15 field goals, 7 of 10 free throws and grabbed 14 rebounds. Six of his 13 field goals were dunks, most in jaw-dropping, thunderous fashion.

"How many times do you see the fans rise and give a standing ovation to (someone from) the losing team?" Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "It was an amazing, amazing display of kind of like an appreciation. They (the fans) did see two incredibly gifted players put on a performance that seems to be one for the ages.

"I think our kids appreciated their reaction to that."

The Patriots, down 33-23 at halftime, probably didn't appreciate Whitney Young's tough defense quite as much.

Stevenson seemed thrown off by a few early Whitney Young blocks. The Dolphins used their length well in altering dozens of other Stevenson shots throughout the game.

Overall, Stevenson, which has no player in the regular rotation taller than 6-foot-5, shot just 38 percent from the field, compared to 63 percent for Whitney Young.

"(Whitney Young's length) was big," said Cashaw, who averages 17.8 points per game but finished just 2 of 11 from the field. "But Coach Ambrose tried to get us prepared for that by using pads (in practice) for the length. We just had to keep fighting through it."

Okafor, meanwhile, had to fight through some serious foul trouble early in the fourth quarter. He picked up his third and fourth fouls with about six minutes left when he argued a foul call against him and received a technical.

But Slaughter left in Okafor, whom he calls "the best player in the world."

"I was definitely aware of the 4 fouls and was trying to be as smart as possible," Okafor said. "But this is a great feeling. It's everything I expected. It was a great atmosphere, all of our fans came out, and all of their fans came out and it was a hard-fought game.

"I'm happy that my team came out on top."

Record-setter:

Jalen Brunson's 56 points against Whitney Young may be 1 off of his career-high (he scored 57 points this season against Lake Forest), but he set plenty of IHSA state finals records.

His point total is 1 better than the old record of 55 points, set by Jim Edmondson of Hinckley-Big Rock in 1984.

His 16 made field goals set a Class 4A record, beating the previous record of 12 by Waukegan's Jereme Richmond in 2010.

And Brunson's 7 made 3-pointers set a Class 4A record, beating the 5 by Carl Richard of Richards in 2008.

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