As far as home openers go, it felt like anything but for Stevenson and sophomore standout Jalen Brunson against Lake Zurich on Friday night.
“We fell behind by 16 points and we were embarrassed to play like that in front of our home fans for the first time,” Brunson said. “We didn’t want to come out and play like that on our home court for the first time.”
Visiting Lake Zurich had the Patriots chasing and built an advantage to 38-22 early in the third quarter before the light finally went on for the Patriots.
A 19-2 run to close the third quarter and scintillating defense in the final 10 minutes lifted the hosts to a 58-51 win over the visiting Bears. The win was the third in a row for Stevenson (7-2, 3-2). Lake Zurich lost its third in a row and fell to 4-7, 1-4 in conference play.
“We were working hard but (Lake Zurich) was working harder,” said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. “It’s not only a credit to them but Lake Zurich also shot the ball very well which allowed them to build the lead they had.”
Lake Zurich couldn’t shoot it much better than it did through two-plus quarters. The Bears hit 16 of their first 25 shots in taking a 16-point advantage with 6:18 to play in the third quarter.
“The key for us going into the game tonight was for us to be aggressive,” said Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher. “I felt like offensively though we had a good start to the third quarter we started to get a little passive and that hurt us.”
The turning point of the night for Stevenson came on the next possession after the Bears took their 16-point lead. On a breakaway layup, an intentional foul was whistled and after a pair of made free throws by Brunson, the Patriots finally started to show life offensively.
When the run finally stopped, Brunson had scored 9 of his game-best 26 points to help give Stevenson its first lead of the second half at 41-40 after three quarters.
“We decided we needed to attack more and get to the free throw line more in the second half,” Brunson said. “We are a team that likes to shoot and shoot, but we had to get back to going to the basket and we did that.”
The teams traded buckets through the early stages of the final quarter with each team holding the lead on six different occasions before Stevenson finally pushed ahead.
A long rebound which led to a one-man fastbreak by Brunson gave the Patriots the lead for good on the ensuing 3-point play 54-51 with 1:37 to play, and the Bears could not answer.
“There were a lot of plays there in the end that helped make the difference for us,” Ambrose said. “Whether it was (Matt) Morrissey hitting a runner or a big 3-pointer from (Andrew) Stempel — everyone contributed to the comeback and the win.”
Stempel was the only other player in double figures for the Patriots with 8 of his 14 points coming after halftime. Mike Travlos had team-best honors with 15 to lead Lake Zurich. Junior Brad Kruse had his best game to date according to Pitcher with 13 points and 9 rebounds for the Bears.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.