Defensive focus helps Stevenson past Grayslake Central

By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/25/2016 10:03 PM

How good is Stevenson's boys basketball team?

Well, it held a pretty good Grayslake Central team without a field goal for the first 7:58 of Friday night's game at the Bison Classic at Buffalo Grove.

The Patriots limited Grayslake Central to 11-of-48 shooting. They outrebounded them 31-20.

All in all, they showed they're ready for their showdown with the host Bison tonight for the title of the tournament after a 62-36 win that leaves them at 4-0.

"They'll come at us. It's their tournament on their home court," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, whose club will face an unbeaten Bison squad that has posted comparable victory margins against common opponents so far.

But Ambrose is pleased with how his club's defense, which forced 15 turnovers while committing just 9, is generating offensive chances. Long-armed Justin Smith did most of the damage with a game-high 22 points, but everyone chipped in.

Mitchell Huelsman hit a pair of 3-pointers. Aiden O'Connell clamped down on Grayslake's best weapon, Jack Spalding, limiting him to 1 field goal. Willie Herenton showed his quick hands and moves to the basket with 13 points. And Eric Zalewski and Jackson Qualley applied the defensive pressure on the opposing guards.

Ambrose appreciates it. "We preach that," he said of turning defense into offense. "It's easier to play when your defense is doing well."

For Grayslake Central, which can still walk away with a 2-2 mark with a win tomorrow against Glenbrok South, "The focus isn't so much on our record as it is on how we're playing," said coach Kosta Kougias. "We had some open looks, especially early but didn't knock them down."

The Rams perked up a bit on offense in the second half, hitting their first four shots and getting six 3-pointers, with Spalding, Sidney Goodman, Billy Drevline and Tony Crews getting at least one.

But matching up with Stevenson is tough.

"They do a nice job," Kougias said. "They play within their roles. (Smith) is so athletic. He gets after it."

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