Stevenson accelerates past North Chicago
A short pop to Libertyville for a conference showdown. Two long trips to Wheaton Warrenville South in three days for four MLK tournament games. And then, for more fun, more basketball Tuesday night against a perennial county power.
"It's like AAU," Stevenson point guard Rodney Herenton Jr. said with a laugh.
Yet, somehow, Herenton still had ample gas in his tank.
So he kept driving.
When it would have been understandable for the Patriots to be running on fumes, they never slowed down. Behind Herenton's season-high 20 points, Stevenson pulled away from visiting North Chicago to capture a 68-49 win in a North Suburban Conference crossover.
"Sugar pills," coach Pat Ambrose joked after his Patriots improved to 14-5 with their sixth win in seven games.
It was the Patriots' sixth game in five days (five wins).
"It was tiring," Herenton said. "But most of it was just focus, more than physical."
Herenton sank 5 of 8 shots, penetrating the lane repeatedly. If he wasn't making a layup, he was getting fouled. Note his 10-of-12 effort from the free-throw line.
"Against other teams, we usually have the 3-ball open," Herenton said. "But since (North Chicago) traps so much and all over the place, there were opportunities and gaps for me off the first or second pass to get into the lane."
Herenton set the tone early, scoring 6 points in the opening quarter in helping the Patriots build a 17-14 lead.
"Rodney was very solid," Ambrose said. "(North Chicago) was going to pressure him early on, so he had the driving lane."
Herenton had 13 points at halftime, as Stevenson went into the break up 27-25, despite Justin Smith sitting nearly the entire second quarter with a pair of fouls.
The Patriots then took over in the third. Six players hit shots, as the hosts outscored the Warhawks 21-11 to lead 48-36 at the end of the quarter. North Chicago got within 48-39 a minute into the fourth, but Stevenson responded with a 7-0 run that included 6 points by Smith, and the outcome was never in doubt after that.
"They were pressing us a lot and double-teaming," said Patriots guard Ryuji Aoki, who scored 7 points. "They were getting physical, too. We were just looking for the open man and making that easy pass for an easy layup."
Smith finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Willie Herenton added 8 points coming off the bench. Aidan O'Connell, a 6-foot-2 junior, chipped in 8 points (two 3-pointers), 5 rebounds and 4 assists in his second straight start and second overall.
"He did a nice job," Ambrose said of O'Connell. "He can guard smaller guys, he's steady, he sets some good screens, and he understands his role."
North Chicago was led by guard Simeon Henton's 16 points and Josiah Walls-Baldridge's 10.
Stevenson gets just two days of practice before resuming game action Friday, when Warren visits.
"We have to take it one (game) at a time," Aoki said. "If we think about the next game, then we start to get mentally tired."