Threes key as Stevenson handles Lake Forest
Three was the magic number on Friday night for Stevenson.
If the Patriots weren't draining 3-pointers, it was junior forward Justin Smith, who wears jersey No. 3, who was ringing up the offense.
Behind a total of 12 3-pointers and a game-high 21 points out of Smith, Stevenson cruised by host Lake Forest 65-46 in North Suburban Conference Lake Division action.
The Patriots shot out of the gates in the first quarter to a 12-0 advantage.
The victory keeps Stevenson (17-6 overall) atop the Lake Division standings with a 7-2 record. Lake Forest drops to 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the Lake.
"It's really about looking for each other and not forcing any bad shots," said Stevenson guard Ryuji Aoki, who scored 16 points on four 3-pointers. "We have a lot of good shooters on this team. If we move the ball and look for good shots, we'll make them. Today we were hot."
So was the 6-foot-7 Smith, who was almost impossible to stop once he got the ball in the paint, despite often being guarded by Lake Forest forward Lorenzo Edwards, also 6-foot-7.
"It certainly does (open up 3-point shooters to have a guy like Justin Smith in the paint)," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "Justin can do so much and that's a focal point of (the defense) to try to take away Justin."
Smith was big in the opening quarter, scoring 8 points there, including a 3- pointer. He enjoyed the matchup with Edwards, who paced Lake Forest with a team-high 17 points.
"It's fun playing (Edwards)," said Smith, who was being watched closely by scouts in the stands, including one from Ohio State. "He's my size, so it's a challenge for me. It allows me to get better."
Stevenson's 3-point shooting, which stretched the Lake Forest defense, allowed Smith more room in the paint to work on Edwards. Smith appreciates the give-and-take relationship between him and his long-distance shooting teammates.
"We were getting each other open," Smith said. "When they pay attention to me, that leaves our shooters wide open. And if they are making those shots, the defense can't help as much off of their man and that opens up driving lanes for me."
Stevenson finished its big first quarter up 16-4 and went on to take a 28-15 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Patriots put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Lake Forest 18-9.
"They were very active defensively (early)," Lake Forest coach Phil LaScala said. "They got a lot of deflections, they pressured the ball really well. Give them a lot of credit. They were ready to play from the get-go. They really set the tone.
"When you set the tone like that, it makes a huge difference."
Besides Edwards, the only other player to reach double-figures for Lake Forest was forward Brian Stickler. He had 10 points.
Other than Smith and Aoki, no one else reached double-figures for Stevenson. But Aidan O'Connell had multiple 3-pointers. He finished with 9 points on three 3-pointers.