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North Chicago's Emmanuel January (center) shoots between Stevenson's Jalen Brunson (left) and Connor Cashaw during their basketball game at Stevenson. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
In March of 2007, Stevenson began what has grown to a six-year streak of Lake County teams bringing home a trophy from the March Madness boys basketball state finals in Peoria.
Next month, that streak likely will grow to seven. And when it does, chances are the county will have come full circle, with Stevenson again bringing home the hardware.
The Patriots made a convincing case on Wednesday, dominating North Chicago team 73-58 in the North Suburban Championship Game.
What makes Stevenson (23-4) so tough is that it can beat you with relentless intensity, in-your-face defense, great coaching, and Jalen Brunson.
Against North Chicago (24-3) all those factors came into play, with Brunson playing the starring role.
The sophomore point guard was dominant, hitting 10-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-9 from behind the arc. He added 6-of-7 from the foul line, and assisted on a half-dozen of his teammates’ buckets.
“I knew it was going to be an exciting game,” said Brunson, who finished with a game-high 32 points. “I just wanted it. I was really hungry for it, I guess.
“It’s not just about putting on a show. I’m just trying to execute and help our team the best I can.”
Whether he knows it or not, Brunson did put on a show in front of the largest home crowd Stevenson’s had in recent memory.
Comcast cable TV taped the game for airing later this week, and you won’t want to miss Brunson’s second half.
In the third quarter, he had 16 of his team’s 19 points, dazzling with long-range bombs and Rose-esque drives into the paint.
“Jalen in the third quarter was unstoppable,’’ Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. ‘‘I thought Connor (Cashaw) was unstoppable in the first half, but so many kids contributed in every way.
“It feels good. The kids really put in a lot of work. They’ve dedicated themselves to these types of things in the offseason and during the season.’’
One of those contributors was Matt Morrissey, who did not score a point in the first half. But the guy he guarded, North Chicago scorer JayQuan McCloud, didn’t score in the first half either.
“Matt is a pretty good player too,” Ambrose said. “He has some pretty defensive bloodlines (his dad is Jim Morrissey, who used to be a Chicago bears linebacker). Years ago, his brother (Mike) shut down Jon Scheyer (Glenbrook North’s star). Mike Morrissey was an all-state football player. And guess what Matt Morrissey is? An all-state football player.”
Both teams will begin their playoff runs next Tuesday. North Chicago will be at home in Class 3A, and Stevenson will be at Deerfield in Class 4A.