Stevenson turns back Libertyville
The game itself on Monday night was big enough.
Stevenson and visiting Libertyville were battling for first place in the North Suburban Conference.
But something bigger was brought to everyone's attention prior to tip-off. The Stevenson athletic department made arrangements to show a video presentation to the crowd on behalf of former boys basketball player Bobby Stineman, who graduated in 2001.
Stineman's infant son Nash is struggling with a rare condition called SMARD1, which causes muscle weakness and respiratory failure.
Stineman spoke after the presentation and encouraged the crowd to make donations for the research of SMARD1.
Stevenson's players and coaches wore pins on their warmups showing baby Nash's sweet face.
It was more than enough inspiration for the Patriots.
"That family means so much to Coach (Pat) Ambrose and our entire team," Stevenson senior guard Samvit Ram said. "We wanted to come out and get the win for (Nash)."
The Patriots got a big win not only for baby Nash, but also for their conference title hopes.
Stevenson withstood a fierce Libertyville rally in the final moments, hit some key free throws and came away with a 50-46 victory. The Patriots, tied with Libertyville in the conference standings heading into the game, now have a full game lead over Libertyville and are ensured at lease a share of the North Suburban Conference title.
Stevenson improves to 17-7 overall and 10-3 in the league. Libertyville drops to 16-9 and 10-4.
"It was a nice win and our kids were focused," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "This was a sectional atmosphere. And our administration did an awesome job for Nash."
The game was tight all the way (the biggest lead was Stevenson by eight in the third quarter) and ended with dramatics.
With Stevenson up 48-45 with 3.5 seconds left, Libertyville inbounded the ball and got it to superstar senior Drew Peterson, who threw up a prayer of a 3-pointer that missed, but he was fouled in the process, now with 2.5 seconds left.
A 3-for-3 performance by Peterson at the line would tie the game, and likely bring on overtime.
Peterson made the first free throw, but the second one just rimmed out. When he tried to purposely miss the third, he failed to hit the rim and Stevenson got the ball back and Ram was fouled and went to the line again.
Ram, who tied teammate Nick Bonk for team-high scoring honors with 20 points, was 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth quarter, with four of his attempts coming in the final minute.
"Before this game, I was kind of missing my free throws and that wasn't like me. So I've been practicing my free throws a lot and I knew that I just had to stay calm and hit them," Ram said. "I was a little nervous but I just tried to think of them as routine free throws."
Peterson was trying to stay calm on his free throws, too. But that darn second one...
"It was unfortunate that it just kind of rolled around the rim and went out," said Peterson, who scored a team-high 20 points for Libertyville. "We had a couple of things like that where obviously it could have gone the other way. We're just hoping that down the road our lapses earlier in the game don't put us in that position later in the game."
Libertyville also got double-figures from Josh Lilja, who finished with 10 points. Josh Steinhaus added 9 points on three 3-pointers.
Besides Ram and Bonk, Jackson Qualley was the only other player to score any points for Stevenson. He had 10 points.
"Early on, we were a little rattled, but the third quarter, we picked it up again," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "Coming down to the end of the game, we had the guy we wanted at the free throw line. We had many possessions in a one-point game and against a good team it comes down to finishing the game and getting stops. But it was a great high school basketball game tonight and both teams played hard."
Warren 59, Mundelein 50: Warren's boys basketball team ran its winning streak against North Suburban Conference foes to four with a 59-50 victory over visiting Mundelein on Monday in the make-up of a snowed-out Friday contest earlier this month.
Branden Ellis led the way for Warren with 19 points and Ian Schilling had 15.
Andrew Silva (13 points), Jeff Bikus (12) and Conor Enright (7) paced Mundelein.
Warren hosts Stevenson, which grabbed the conference lead and clinched a share of the title by topping Libertyville, in a conference finale Wednesday.
The Blue Devils are 9-4 in league play (tied for second with Libertyville), while Stevenson is 10-3.
Lake Zurich 53, Lake Forest 42: Mead Payne scored a team-high 12 points for Lake Forest, but the Scouts came up short in a make-up game against the host Bears.
Lake Zurich improved to 21-7 overall and 8-5 in the league, while Lake Forest slipped to 10-15 and 5-8.