Willie Herenton hit it right on the head.
"You have to be ready in case your number is called," said Stevenson's senior guard shortly after pouring in a game-high 21 points to help lead the visiting Pats to a comfortable 56-34 victory over Lake Forest in North Suburban Conference action Saturday night. "They were keying in on Justin (Smith) so I had to get a little creative. I got a lot of good looks."
True, most teams key in on 6-foot-7 Indiana-bound forward Smith, who didn't start tonight due to what coach Pat Ambrose called a very minor team infraction.
But Stevenson, which improved to 16-4 overall and 8-1 in the league, has many able-bodied personnel who can step in anytime when the main cog in the wheel is having, for lack of a better term, an off night.
And on this night, Herenton led the offensive charge.
He scored 5 points in every quarter except for the fourth when he dropped in 6.
Both teams were a little stagnant on the offensive end in the first half. The Stevenson defense, however, was largely responsible for holding the Scouts to 10 first-half points as it took a 20-10 advantage into the locker room.
"Lake Forest plays real smart basketball, but I was pleased with our defensive effort tonight," said Ambrose, whose team travels to Zion-Benton for another tough NSC tilt Tuesday night.
"We had a lot of kids step in tonight. It was a great team win."
Smith eventually got into the game with just over three minutes left in the first quarter and ran into some foul problems early in the second.
He played most of the second half and still did some damage to the tune of a quiet 14 points, including a beautiful alley-oop pass from Herenton that produced an emphatic one-handed slam early in the third.
"That definitely helped get us going and raise our energy," said Herenton.
The Smith dunk gave Stevenson a 22-12 lead, but Lake Forest's Brian Stickler (7 points) answered with trey to draw the Scouts to within 22-15 with 3:10 left in the third.
However, that's as close as Lake Forest (7-13, 3-6) got.
Still holding on to a 10-point lead at 31-21 entering the fourth, the Pats put the game on ice by opening the frame with an 18-4 burst. Smith's 3-point play had given Stevenson a 20-point lead at 45-25 with 4:29 left.
Stevenson's smothering defense had also forced Lake Forest into 8 turnovers in the final frame.
Herenton's 3 with 2:10 left gave the Pats their biggest lead at 52-27.
Senior guard Eric Zalewski chipped in 11 points for Stevenson, while Justin McMahon led the Scouts with 10.