Good times for Stevenson in win over Waukegan
Justin Smith's bad timing came at a good time.
With Stevenson trying to pull away from visiting Waukegan in the third quarter of the teams' North Suburban Conference showdown Saturday night, Smith volleyball-spiked a shot on the wing, sending the Patriots in transition. It was his second such crowd-pleasing block of the game.
"I timed it horribly, actually," the 6-foot-7 Smith said. "I just floated up and blocked it. But that really worked out."
The game itself worked out incredibly well for Stevenson. Behind Smith's game-high 17 points and Willie Herenton's 16, the Patriots rolled to a 59-37 win, improving to 14-2 and 6-0 in the NSC, while dropping Waukegan to 12-6 and 4-2.
So much for Waukegan being ranked higher than Stevenson by some media outlets.
"Yeah, we wanted to make a statement," coach Pat Ambrose said after his Patriots won their seventh in a row. "We wanted to come out and play well. We had a lot of practice time this week, so we were able to figure out some things. We want to gain respect. Wins are not everything. Rankings are not everything. But (Waukegan) is ranked ahead of us in a couple of polls."
Smith's blocks made statements. Not long after his third-quarter swat, he floated high again. Danny Rosen led a 2-on-1 break with Smith, who snagged Rosen's alley-oop pass and put down a thunderous dunk. Smith hung on the rim, legs spread, as several Stevenson fans jumped from their seats.
"That was a good stretch," Smith said. "My teammates and I really fed off that energy from the crowd, and we kept playing as a team. That's what put us over the top."
Herenton has seen Smith's top-level block and dunks before -- and enjoyed them before.
"I'm used to it," said Herenton, who also had 5 rebounds and 4 steals. "I've played with him (and against him) for years (in AAU). Those particular plays are big-time for us."
Smith's jam stretched Stevenson's lead to 49-29 with 1:51 left in third, and the senior closed the quarter by speeding end to end for a layup. He added a free throw early in the fourth and then, with the game comfortably in hand, sat the rest of the quarter.
"We just abandoned a lot of the things we said we needed to do," Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said. "A small (Stevenson) lead turned into a bigger lead because all of a sudden we think we have to start shooting jump shots. And that's just not a strength of our team. It's well documented with all the zones we've seen recently."
Carson Newsome had 11 points and 7 rebounds for Waukegan, which also got 10 points from Ja'Dyn Brown. The Bulldogs lost starting guard Jordan Brown in the third quarter to an ankle injury that Ashlaw didn't deem serious.
An excellent offensive-rebounding team, Waukegan was denied many second chances, as Stevenson enjoyed a 29-20 edge on the boards.
"That's effort," Ashlaw said. "We have some banged-up guys, but we're not going to make any excuses at all."
Aidan O'Connell added 8 points and 5 rebounds for Stevenson. Eric Zalewski and Jackson Qualley each had 7 points. O'Connell, Qualley and Herenton all knocked down first-quarter 3-pointers in helping Stevenson build a 19-13 lead, which kept increasing.
"We see what people say," said Smith, surrounded by fans on the court after the game. "They said (Waukegan) was with us. ... The scoreboard looks good."