Historic night for Brown as Waukegan wins regional title
The tears of joy can wait for Waukegan senior forward Bryant Brown.
There is a sectional championship to win on his home basketball court, after all.
His coach caved, however.
With third-seeded Waukegan well on its way to a 66-39 win over No. 11 Warren in the Class 4A Grayslake North regional final Friday night, Brown took the ball well beyond the arc. His teammates cleared. He drove and banked in a shot for his 23rd and 24th points of the game. More significantly, the fourth-quarter points were Nos. 2,000 and 2,001 of his four-year varsity career.
Waukegan immediately called timeout, and Brown's teammates emptied the bench to mob him on the court. When he finally wove his way to Bulldogs coach Ron Ashlaw on the sideline, the two embraced. Ashlaw wiped away tears and then more tears.
"Because he's just the best, best kid," said Ashlaw, getting emotional again after the game. "He was the least concerned about the 2,000 (points)."
"He tried to make me cry," Brown said of his coach, smiling. "If we go downstate, I might shed a tear."
If that's going to happen, Waukegan (27-5) first needs to get past No. 2 Fremd (22-4) in Wednesday's 7 p.m. sectional semifinal at Waukegan.
In beating Warren (16-16) for the third time this season, Waukegan also got 16 points from Ja'Veon Taylor, who along with Jaylin Cunningham helped ignite the Bulldogs in the third quarter. Warren had taken a 24-22 lead late in the first half when Jason Langevin sank his second right-corner 3-pointer of the quarter. Brown answered with a 3, and Taylor's putback had Waukegan up 27-24 at halftime.
Waukegan then blitzed the Blue Devils with a 12-1 run to start the second half. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Taylor scored 11 points in the third. Included was his second 3-pointer of the game.
Not exactly what one would expect from a kid of his size.
"But those Warren guys know me," Taylor said. "I played with some of those guys in AAU basketball, so they pretty much know I can shoot. But a lot of teams underestimate me. That's an advantage for us."
Cunningham scored all 9 of his points in the third, as Waukegan outscored Warren 26-6 to take a 53-30 lead into the fourth. The Bulldogs' relentless pressure forced 7 turnovers.
"In the third quarter, that's when we usually get on teams," Brown said. "They tire, and they can't take our pressure anymore. We just had to push the gas pedal coming out of halftime."
"That's us at our best," Ashlaw said. "We're about creating an identity, creating a way that we do things, and there are other teams that we do that against. But it's about us and our commitment to effort, our commitment to teammate, our commitment to focus, our commitment to relentlessness. That's who this team has become -- and it's because of (No.) 2-5 (Brown)."
No. 25 will tell you his success is all about his teammates.
"I couldn't do anything without them," Brown said. "This is my favorite team. These are my guys. I've known them since I was a baby. This is my family."
Brown shot 10 of 13 from the floor (two 3-pointers) and 2 of 3 from the line, while also grabbing 7 rebounds. His teammates couldn't have been happier for him for scoring his milestone basket, which came with 1:44 left.
A proud Brown enjoyed the rest of the game from the bench.
"I'm very excited for him," Taylor said. "We knew he was a couple of points away from getting those 2,000 points. He didn't know, at first. We made it a goal to get (the ball) to him. As a team, we pride ourselves on sharing the ball, being communicative and helping each other out."
Andre White Jr. added 8 points for Waukegan. Taylor and Cunningham had 7 and 6 rebounds, respectively.
Warren was led by Adnan Sarancic's 9 points and 10 rebounds. Juan DelaCruz added 8 points for the Blue Devils.