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Stevenson's Jalen Brunson powers past Jared Eck of Hinsdale Central. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
A pair of sophomores had chances to win or tie the game in the opening round of the 52nd annual Proviso West Holiday tournament Wednesday.
A shot by Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson fell. Matt Rafferty’s for Hinsdale Central did not.
Brunson made the first game-winning shot of his burgeoning career when his 17-footer over the head of Jared Eck put Stevenson ahead with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game. Rafferty grabbed the ball off a tipped 3-point attempt, but his layup fell short, getting stuck between the rim and the backboard as the final buzzer sounded.
Stevenson won its debut at Proviso West 56-54 to advance to the second round at 3:45 p.m. Thursday against St. Charles East or Von Steuben. The Patriots (8-2) are one of 12 teams to make their first appearance at the newly expanded 32-team tournament.
“It felt good going in,” said Brunson, the son of former NBA player Rick Brunson. “It felt good going in and getting the win.”
Rafferty, a 6-foot-7 center, led all players with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Brunson had 19 points for Stevenson. Brunson missed previous game-winning shots this season against Warren and Zion-Benton. Connor Cashaw, another sophomore, scored 20 points for the Patriots.
The Devils (5-4) struggled to open the game when Stevenson scored its first seven baskets in the game on 3-pointers. The first two-pointer for the Patriots was Cashaw’s layup with 4:34 remaining in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 24-19 lead. Stevenson made all five of its 3-point attempts in the first quarter, but missed all seven of its two-point shots.
“I thought, ‘We better wake up,’ ” Devils coach Nick Latorre said. “They came out with much more energy. They were much more physical than us. I’m proud of my kids that they were able to match that and come back in the game.”
In the first half, Stevenson made 7-of-9 three-pointers but just 2-of-16 two-pointers. The three-pointers were made by four different players.
The game was tied at 29 at the half, but Hinsdale scored the first 10 points in the second half. The lead didn’t last. The Devils went more than three minutes in the fourth quarter with one basket. Cashaw’s 5-foot jumper put the Patriots ahead 50-39 with 2:55 to go.
In 2011, Hinsdale became the first school in the history of the Proviso West tournament to lose back-to-back first-round games by one point. Morgan Park beat the Devils 50-49 last year and Proviso East won 63-62 in 2010.
The game was a homecoming for Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, who was a Proviso West assistant coach under Mark Schneider before heading to Stevenson.
“It felt great seeing Mark Schneider and (tournament director) Joe Spagnolo,” Ambrose said. “They are life-long friendships. Seeing Mark behind me on the bench, my coaching dad, was very special.”