Clemons, Stevenson down Warren to advance in NSC tourney
It's not your normal reaction to a thunderous dunk.
Most dunkers will let out a primal scream, or pump their fists into the air, or chest bump with a teammate.
"I teared up a little bit," Stevenson senior forward Darius Clemons said after punctuating a big fourth quarter Friday night with a hard dunk.
"It hurt a little bit."
Hurt so good, as it turns out. Clemons, who had tweaked his back earlier in the game, felt a lot better in the wake of his dunk and Stevenson's 55-43 victory over Warren in the first round of the North Suburban Conference boys basketball tournament at the Patriots' home away from home this season, Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove. Stevenson has played its home games there this season since the Lake County Health Department has used its main gym as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
When Clemons tweaked his back, he went down hard to the floor. He left the game for a few minutes to stretch out and have his back massaged by the team trainer.
"I went up for a shot and I got kneed in the back and it kind of felt like a Charley horse in my back," Clemons said. "I've never really felt a pain like that before in my life. But I was able to stretch it out and massage it out a little bit and I was able to get back into play.
"But I still had to try to get that dunk. No pain, no gain. And it brought a lot of energy. My teammates were jumping around and the fans were getting into it. That made me feel good."
Clemons scored 7 of his game-high 13 points in the fourth quarter. His dunk came when Warren was making a bit of a run and cut a double-digit Stevenson lead to just 6 points with about 2 minutes left. The Patriots went into trap mode and Clemons came up with a steal on a trap and went in uncontested for the dunk.
Stevenson, which moves to 10-3 on the season, will be at Lake Forest Tuesday in the second round of the NSC tournament.
The Patriots also got 10 points from Evan Porto.
"The big thing with us was energy," said Stevenson assistant coach Chandler Simon, who is filling in for head coach Pat Ambrose, who is taking a pause from coaching. "We were happy to play together and we were ready to play. We've always known what Darius (Clemons) was capable of and he's put the pieces together this season."
Warren got off to a slow start, down 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.
But the Blue Devils got back in the game with some big fourth-quarter 3-pointers by Ryan Panek. He finished with a team-high and season-high 12 points.
"Going into tonight, I was just trying to do a little more than I had been doing, and whatever the team needed me to do," Panek said. "Stevenson's got a good team, and we are inexperienced but we keep getting better. I'm just thankful for every moment we got this season."
Warren drops to 3-6 on the season.
"We battled and kept at it. We got some steals and we knocked down some shots," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said. "But (Stevenson) just executed better than we did, and more often than we did, both offensively and defensively."