Take-charge effort lifts Stevenson past Zion-Benton
You won't see Stevenson senior Parker Nichols at the top of the scoring list for the top-ranked Patriots, and he is just fine with that.
Where you will typically find Nichols is under the basket, and even sometimes flat on his back on the defensive end. Of course, he does it for the betterment of the Patriots defense, but he has a hidden agenda as well.
"Coach (Ambrose) said if I draw two charges in a game I get pizza," Nichols said.
So what does Nichols get after drawing 5 charges in an 81-56 win over Zion-Benton in a North Suburban Conference Lake division game at home Friday night?
"I don't know," Nichols said with a smile. "We might have to talk about that one."
Nichols' presence was felt on the very first possession for Zion-Benton. As Jaalen Ray drove the lane, Nichols was right there to draw the first charge of the night and give Stevenson possession.
"He easily could have had two or three more tonight," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "He is like an anchor back there for us."
Nichols earned high praise from Rice-bound senior Connor Cashaw.
"I've been stressing it all year," Cashaw said. "Parker is one of the greatest defenders I have played with. He does all the things that won't end up on the stat sheet but on the defensive end he does so many things."
Offensively, Stevenson (14-1, 5-0) relied heavily on the 3-point shot, and senior Matt Johnson got the offense going early. He hit three in the first quarter as the Patriots opened up a 21-13 advantage. Johnson finished with 20 points, including five 3s.
When the defense for Zion (9-4, 1-3) stepped out to the shooters, Cashaw took advantage inside. He scored 17 of his team best 21 points in the second half to break the game open and finished with 15 boards and 6 assists.
"Jalen (Brunson), Matt -- all the starters really do a good job trusting each other and finding the hot hand," Cashaw said.
The Zee-Bees, who were led by Tennessee-bound senior Admiral Schofield's game best 23 points, kept the game within manageable margins in the third quarter, cutting the game to 12 -- but could not get any close than that.
"We built like a 12-, 13-point lead and put ourselves in control," Ambrose said. "In the second half we kind of coughed it up a few times, but in the end we were able to stay in control."
Brunson chipped in 18 points for the Patriots and Justin Smith added 11. Damarquis Henry added 13 points for Zion-Benton.