Stevenson earns return engagement downstate
It's not a glamour stat.
But it does get top billing in the Stevenson boys basketball locker room.
One of the few statistics ever posted there is "charges taken."
Senior forward Parker Nichols easily tops the list, and he just extended his lead.
Nichols, who now has taken 41 charges this season, played a big part in helping Stevenson set a vicious tone defensively Tuesday night in the Class 4A supersectional at Chicago State. He drew four first-half charges against Riverside-Brookfield as Stevenson quickly blew out to a double-digit lead en route to a 62-45 victory.
"It starts with great pressure on the ball by our guards, getting the guy to drive into the lane and then I have to have good defensive positioning to help over and to just be set to take it," Nichols said of his knack for drawing charges. "I always think I'm going to get the charge."
The 28-3 Patriots, who were up 20-4 by the end of the first quarter, have now punched their ticket to the state finals in Peoria for a third straight year. They will try to become the first team from Lake County to win a boys basketball state championship. Their path was made easier when Simeon, the only team in the state of Illinois to beat them this year, was upset in the Normal supersectional on Tuesday by Normal Community, 64-50.
"This is a great feeling and to be able to do it three years in a row is very special," said Nichols, who scored 9 points and had two 3-pointers. "Not many teams get it done once. To get it done three times is really great. We knew that we had to just come out here and play our game and execute. We were confident the whole way."
Stevenson got a game-high 23 points out a senior guard Connor Cashaw. Senior guard Jalen Brunson finished with 13 points and sophomore forward Justin Smith added 10 points.
"Connor was aggressive, Justin did a good job, it was a team game," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said of the balanced scoring. "We knew that if we played our game, we'd be OK."
Brunson's second basket of the game, a nifty reverse layup, gave him a special place in the history of Lake County basketball as its all-time leading scorer. Brunson entered the game with 2,618 career points, just 3 shy of the scoring record set by former Zion-Benton star Milik Yarbrough (2,621) last year.
Brunson now has 2,631 career points.
"It's been a blessing playing with him," Cashaw said of Brunson. "We've worked hard together and it's great to see him get this (the scoring record)."
Up 39-18 at halftime, Stevenson began the second half with a 7-2 run to take even firmer control. Riverside-Brookfield (28-4) put together a mini-run late in the third quarter with 8 straight points, but could get no closer than 16 points.
"We struggled in the first half scoring, and you know you have to score with (Stevenson) because they score a lot of points," Riverside-Brookfield coach Tom McCloskey said. "But I was proud of our guys in the second half. No one ever quit. We battled back and made it respectable. I'm certainly not going to dwell on this. It was a great year for us."
The Bulldogs got double-figures out of only one player. Senior center Sam Johnson finished with 10 points.