Stevenson aims high, wins 4th straight NSC title

 
 
Updated 2/24/2016 10:36 PM
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  • Stevenson's Ryuji Aoki, center, celebrates with Justin Smith after a dunk during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Ryuji Aoki, center, celebrates with Justin Smith after a dunk during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Justin Smith goes in for a dunk on North Chicago's X'Zemenize Boose during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Justin Smith goes in for a dunk on North Chicago's X'Zemenize Boose during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Rodney Herenton Jr., right, drives on North Chicago's Jonathan Coleman during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Rodney Herenton Jr., right, drives on North Chicago's Jonathan Coleman during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Justin Smith, left, dunks on North Chicago's X'Zemenize Boose during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Justin Smith, left, dunks on North Chicago's X'Zemenize Boose during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Ryuji Aoki drives to the hoop during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Ryuji Aoki drives to the hoop during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Aiden O'Connell, left, passes around North Chicago's Terrell Grier during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Aiden O'Connell, left, passes around North Chicago's Terrell Grier during the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Justin Smith shoots during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Justin Smith shoots during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left, steals the ball from North Chicago's Kentrell Burns during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left, steals the ball from North Chicago's Kentrell Burns during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left, takes a charge from North Chicago's Josiah Baldridge during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left, takes a charge from North Chicago's Josiah Baldridge during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left drives on North Chicago's Jonathan Coleman during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson's Eric Zalewski, left drives on North Chicago's Jonathan Coleman during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose argues a call during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night.

      Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose argues a call during the North Suburban Conference boys basketball championship game at North Chicago on Wednesday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

The higher, the better.

That's what Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose tells his guards to focus on if they want to throw an alley-oop pass to 6-foot-7 forward Justin Smith.

"In fact, I actually yell at the kids if they throw it too low," Ambrose said. "We say throw it higher and higher and higher because (Smith) can jump up there and get it. He's really good at that."

Smith had the play of the night Wednesday in the North Suburban Conference championship game at North Chicago off of the pass of the night by Willie Herenton.

Herenton lobbed a high pass from the right wing all the way to a rising Smith along the left baseline and Smith reached back with one hand to corral the ball, and cranked home a spectacular alley-oop dunk with authority, the same kind of authority that Stevenson showed in rolling to a 65-50 win over North Chicago.

The Patriots, who improve to 22-6 and were the Lake Division champions, have now won four North Suburban Conference titles in a row. North Chicago, the Prairie Division champion, drops to 15-10.

"That was a really good pass and I finished. Those (alley-oops) are always fun," said Smith, who threw down four dunks on the night en route to a game-high 18 points. "It's a good feeling. It's momentum in our favor that can really carry us. Plays like that are what gets the blood pumping and gets us going defensively."

The Stevenson defense stymied North Chicago's offense, forcing 17 turnovers and dozens of poor shots. The Warhawks hit on just 19 of 45 field goals, including a 6-of-20 effort in the first half.

Stevenson held North Chicago to just 7 first-quarter points and took a 31-18 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Ryuji Aoki had the hot hand early for Stevenson, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the first half. He had four 3-pointers on the game, three in the first half.

Meanwhile, Smith had 7 first-half points, including two dunks.

"He's pretty good," Ambrose said of Smith. "He's really tough to guard."

Aidan O'Connell also finished in double-figures for Stevenson, which saw its lead balloon to as many as 27 points in the fourth quarter. O'Connell scored all 10 of his points, including two 3-pointers, in the second half.

The only player to reach double-figures for North Chicago was guard Simeon Henton. He had 11 points. Josiah Baldridge had 9 points and Marreon White had 8 points.

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