Boys basketball: Scouting Stevenson downstate
IHSA Class 4A boys basketball state semifinal
Stevenson Patriots (28-3) vs. Bolingbrook Raiders (24-6)
When: 6:30 p.m., today
Where: Carver Arena, Peoria Civic Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Stevenson's road to the state finals: Defeated Maine East (79-38) and Zion-Benton (84-60) in the Stevenson regional; defeated Notre Dame (78-77) and Lake Forest (57-49) in the Waukegan sectional; defeated Riverside-Brookfield (62-45) in the Chicago State supersectional.
Bolingbrook's road to the state finals: Defeated Romeoville (53-39) and Joliet Central (48-42) in the Romeoville regional; defeated Plainfield East (63-52) and Neuqua Valley (58-55) in the Bolingbrook sectional; defeated West Aurora (50-49) in the Hinsdale Central supersectional.
Stevenson's state tournament history: This is Stevenson's fifth trip to the state finals. The Patriots placed third last year, second in 2013, fourth in 2007 and did not place in 1992.
Bolingbrook's state tournament history: This is Bolingbrook's second trip to the state finals. The Raiders did not place in 1985.
Stevenson's advancement last season: Stevenson won the Class 4A third-place game, defeating Edwardsville, 70-63.
Bolingbrook's advancement last season: Bolingbrook lost in a regional final to Geneva, 66-63.
Stevenson coach: Pat Ambrose, 16th season
Bolingbrook coach: Rob Brost, 8th season
Stevenson starters: G Jalen Brunson, 6-2, sr. (23.1 ppg), G Connor Cashaw, 6-5, sr. (16.3 ppg), F Justin Smith, 6-7, soph. (10.3 ppg), G Matt Johnson, 6-0, sr. (8.4 ppg), F Parker Nichols, 6-5, sr. (3.2 ppg).
Bolingbrook starters: G Prentiss Nixon, 6-1, sr. (16.8 ppg), G Brodric Thomas, 6-2, sr. (11.8 ppg), C Julian Torres, 6-9, sr. (9.5 ppg), F Dimitri Akenten, 6-4, sr. (8.3 ppg), G Devon Sams, 6-0, jr. (4.3 ppg).
Outlook: Stevenson has earned every place possible at the state finals…except first place. The Patriots are more than ready to break through and be the first boys basketball team in school and Lake County history to win a state championship. "It's been a fun run, but now we have to finish the job," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "I wouldn't say it's state championship or bust because that would sell the kids short on everything they've achieved this season. But they definitely want to win it. They've been working for that."…Like Stevenson, Bolingbrook is a perimeter-oriented team, led by Division I recruit Prentiss Nixon, a guard who is averaging 16.8 points per game and will be playing at Colorado State next year. Nixon, Brodric Thomas and Devon Sams are all strong ball-handlers who can push tempo and direct the offense. "They pretty much have three point guards," Ambrose said of Bolingbrook. "They all handle it well and they can all shoot. They'll play a lot of four out, one in." That one player inside will be 6-foot-9 Julian Torres, who could cause match-up problems for the shorter Patriots. "We'll start Parker Nichols (6-foot-5) on him but we'll rotate Justin Smith on him and some of our (reserves). We'll use a lot of fouls on him. He's a big, strong kid inside who hits the glass and rebounds well."…The up-tempo, high-scoring Patriots, led by heady point guard Jalen Brunson (Villanova) and off-guard Connor Cashaw (Rice), could be meeting its match in an equally fast Bolingbrook team. "I think they can run, and I think they will try to run with us," Ambrose said of the Raiders. "I think it could be a very up-and-down game, and could be a very high-scoring game."…On paper, the path to a state championship seems to have gotten easier for Stevenson, which won't get the chance to avenge its only loss to a team from the state of Illinois. Simeon, a season-long favorite for a spot in the state title game, lost to Normal Community by 14 points in Tuesday's Normal supersectional. "Sure, we would have liked to have played (Simeon) again to try to get back at them for beating us," Ambrose said. "But we're not really thinking about that too much. This is a very talented field. Normal is a very good team to have beaten Simeon. They've got only one loss. They'll be tough and so will Geneva. Some people may say (Simeon losing) clears the path for us, but all four teams here are good teams."…Ambrose says he'll be pulling for Geneva in the second semifinal. He is good friends with Geneva coach Phil Ralston, who coached at Grant for eight years from 2000-2008. Geneva assistant Scott Hennig is also a personal friend. "I go back with Phil to his Grant days and he also spoke at a clinic of mine," Ambrose said. "And I know Scott real well. He was a player at Hoffman Estates back when I coached there. I've worked summer camps with him, too. He's a great young man and we talk a lot of basketball. I'm not dissing Normal or anything, but I'll be pulling for Geneva because I know those guys so well."
Winner gets: A berth in the Class 4A state championship game on Saturday (8:15 p.m.) against the winner of Friday's other semifinal between Geneva (30-3) and Normal (32-1). The loser will play in Saturday's third-place game (6:30 p.m.).
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw