Smith, Stevenson rate well against Lake Zurich
Moments after Justin Smith failed to put down a dunk, which was one of Stevenson's few missed shots, Lake Zurich's spirited student fans started chanting "Ov-er-rate-d."
Mind you, earlier in the day, Stevenson's Indiana-bound senior was nominated for McDonald's All-American Game.
Smith couldn't help but hear the heckling.
"I did, and I was curious," Smith said. "I was like, 'OK.' ... I wasn't worried about it."
Smith and his teammates never seemed concerned about Tuesday night's outcome. Stevenson exerted its dominance early and turned the North Suburban Conference showdown into a blowout. Smith's 18 points, which included a trio of dunks, led the way for the visitors in a 72-42 win.
"We were ready," coach Pat Ambrose said after his Patriots improved to 13-2 and 5-0 in the NSC, while dropping Lake Zurich to 10-4 and 2-3.
Stevenson never trailed, taking the lead for good on Aidan O'Connell's 3-pointer that snapped a 2-2 tie. Soon after that, Smith started hearing it from the home fans.
Ambrose, standing all the way across Lake Zurich's court and at the opposite end, heard them loud and clear.
"Then Mr. Overrated threw down a couple of thunder dunks," Ambrose said.
Smith's second slam punctuated a stellar first half for Stevenson. After a scramble, Smith scooped up the ball at half court and raced in for a flying dunk to beat the buzzer. The Patriots enjoyed a 45-19 advantage at the break.
"I heard the student section counting down, '2, 1 ... ' " Smith said. "So I knew I had at least two more seconds. I was like, 'OK, I'll go dunk it.' They actually (helped) me. They thought they were hindering me, but they did the opposite."
For fun, Smith threw down an alley-oop from Eric Zalewski in the third quarter.
"He was LeBron James tonight," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said of the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Smith. "He's one of the best players in the state, if not the best player."
Even with Smith's missed dunk, Stevenson shot 8 of 12 from the floor in the opening quarter in building a 21-7 lead. The Patriots then went 8 of 14 in the second quarter in extending their lead to 26 points. They had 11 assists, while Mitch Huelsman knocked two of the visitors' six 3-pointers in the half.
"Some of our kids really stepped up and knocked it down," Ambrose said. "(Lake Zurich) packed it in against us a little bit so we had to shoot well."
O'Connell (7 rebounds), Willie Herenton (3 assists) and John Weiler each finished with 8 points for Stevenson, which played 15 guys and got scoring from 12. The starters sat out the fourth quarter.
Brian Chmiel scored 5 of his team-high 10 points in the fourth quarter for Lake Zurich, which learned Monday that starting center Chris Trybula suffered a torn ACL in Pekin, ending the senior captain's season. Michael Bens had 9 points (two 3-pointers).
"We haven't been playing well, and I thought we'd rise to the occasion and make it competitive," Pitcher said. "Give (Stevenson) credit. They played really well. They came in with a focus, intensity and sharpness that I wish our guys would have. They were aggressive and confident, and they saw blood in the water."