Signature win for Stevenson at Round Lake
Round Lake guard Michael Green did not get Jalen Brunson's autograph, as his dad, Tony, joked he should do when Stevenson's star ran by him on the court.
Green got something else, however.
On the opening possession of Tuesday night's North Suburban Conference crossover, the 6-foot-2 Brunson penetrated the lane. Green, who's 6-3, blocked the shot, triggering a Panthers fastbreak.
"I wasn't expecting it," Green said.
Stevenson was expected to win the game, and the state's No. 1 team did so easily. Brunson rebounded from Green swatting his first shot of the night, Ryuji Aoki came off the bench to score a career- and game-high 19 points, and the visiting Patriots cruised to an 83-42 boys basketball win.
Stevenson improved to 16-2, while dropping Round Lake to 3-12. Stevenson last played Saturday night, when it dropped an 84-58 decision to one of the top teams in the country, Findlay College Prep, in the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass.
"We were coming off a loss, so that was extra motivation," Patriots coach Pat Ambrose said. "We didn't have a lot of time to stew. We got back Sunday night and then Monday, Martin Luther King (holiday), we had a spirited, shorter practice because there was no school."
Stevenson started the game with a 13-0 run, which sophomore Justin Smith capped by dunking an alley-oop feed from Brunson. Green's first of three 3-pointers finally got Round Lake on the board, but Aoki's first of five baskets from beyond the arc made it 24-3 with 3:04 left in the opening quarter.
By halftime, the visitors were up 44-19.
Ambrose then gave starters Brunson (8 points, two 3-pointers, 4 steals, 3 assists), Connor Cashaw (10 points), Matt Johnson (8 points, two 3s) and Smith (5 points) the entire second half off. Aoki saw extended playing-time and took advantage. The junior guard shot 7-of-11 from the floor.
"Jalen and Connor give me confidence at practice," Aoki said. "At times like this, when I have a chance to show something, I just try to do my thing."
Besides the driveway, Aoki said he honed his shot a couple of years ago at a shooting camp at Joy of the Game in Deerfield. He got instructions from former Mundelein and Wisconsin star Ben Brust.
"He got to teach me a little bit," Aoki said.
"He definitely can shoot it," Ambrose said of Aoki. "He's ready to shoot when he catches the ball."
Green led Round Lake with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Cezar Rogers chipped in 8 points and 5 boards for the Panthers.
Besides Brunson and Johnson, Stevenson received 8-point games from Ryan Rosenbaum, Jordan Newman and Kevin Yang.
"They're really good," Green said of the Patriots. "That one sophomore (Smith) was really good. Their coaching staff is really good. They're very good fundamentally."