Stevenson topples St. Charles East for Hinsdale hardware

 
 
Updated 12/30/2016 7:58 PM
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Playing its fourth game in as many days, Stevenson's boys basketball team started strong and finished with a flourish during Friday's 56-41 victory over St. Charles East at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic.

Junior guard Jackson Qualley (16 points, 5 rebounds) hit his fourth 3-pointer of the contest during the Patriots' opening possession of the fourth quarter to ignite an 11-2 run that sealed the consolation championship.

"It's a title," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, whose team rebounded with three consecutive double-digit victories following a 47-42 first-round tournament loss to the host Red Devils Tuesday. "We're 3-1 coming out of a Christmas tournament.

"You play four games in four days -- it's a little bit of a grind so for us to play well on the fourth day against a good team is a positive."

Senior guard Willie Herenton, who poured in a game-high 19 points, capped the late surge with a 3-pointer just moments after a thunderous dunk by 6-foot-7 senior forward Justin Smith, who finished the tournament with a 21.5-point average (86 points).

The Indiana-bound Smith finished with 17 points and a game-high 8 rebounds, including 3 on the offensive end, for the Patriots (10-2), who dominated the glass with a 27-13 rebounding edge.

"They're a good shooting team so you have to limit them to one shot because they're going to make the second one," Ambrose said of the Saints.

"Their offensive rebounding killed us," admitted Saints coach Patrick Woods. "They had nine offensive rebounds to our none and they probably scored on half of them. To me, that's the game right there."

Qualley also gave the Patriots an early boost as he scored the team's first 8 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

"I had my teammates behind me," said Qualley, who had scored a total of 10 points in Stevenson's 3 previous tournament games. "They had confidence in me and I just felt good. The screens set me up really nice."

Junior forward Justin Hardy, an all-tournament selection, led the Saints (10-4) with 15 points while sophomore guard Nate Ortiz added 14 points, including four 3-pointers.

"Justin had a great tournament," Woods said of Hardy, who totaled 73 points on 30 of 49 shooting from the field, including 7 of 12 from beyond the arc.

"We're still coming together as a team -- still trying to figure some things out."

Junior guard Zach Robinson added 7 points for the Saints, who finished with a 2-2 record at Hinsdale Central.

"It was a great tournament for us -- a great test," said Woods. "We see exactly where we are. We could go to some other tournament, win four games and pat ourselves on the back but I'd rather come here and be challenged, game in and game out.

"We'll be all right."

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