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Kendall Stephens had an ice bag strategically wrapped around his neck, courtesy of sleeping awkardly on his side. Von Steuben was the one suffering the blues.
The Purdue recruit made his Proviso West Holiday tournament debut a spectacular one by averaging more than a point a minute as the Saints used a 15-0 second quarter run to hammer the Panthers 70-36 in first round play in Hillside Wednesday.
St. Charles East advances to meet Stevenson in the second round on Thursday, setting up a scintillating matchup of elite guards, Stephens and Stevenson sophomore Jalen Brunson.
Stephens needed only 18 minutes of action in reaching his scoring output. During one stretch, he scored more than Von Steuben by himself. “It’s not just about me scoring,” he said. “It was more about execution today. I thought we were very patient, and we really moved the ball and found the open players.”
Stephens scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the first half in staking the Saints (8-2) to a 38-16 lead at the break. He ended the first quarter with a beautiful 23-footer for a 19-9 Saints’ lead. Von Steuben (4-2) hung around for just over a quarter behind of play of its talented guard tandem of Joseph Rencher (11 points) and Demetrius Faulkner (11 points).
Rencher’s second three-pointer of the first quarter pulled the Panthers within 12-9 with just under two minutes to play. Stephens’ three-pointer fueled a 15-0 run that extended into the second quarter. Stephens shot 6-for-8 in the first half, part of an 8-for-14 performance from the field. He added three steals and a block.
St. Charles East put the game out of reach by holding the Panthers scoreless from the field in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Stephens departed for good after scoring on a rebound basket, a three-pointer and a steal and dunk for his final point total.
“It felt great out there,” Stephens said of first time in the prestigious tournament after playing previously in the York tournament. “It’s a great atmosphere, a great court to play on, you look at the history and see all the NBA guys that played here. It’s a tournament with great history.”
Junior forward A.J. Washington contributed 12 points and seven rebounds for the Saints. Sophomore reserve forward Jake Asquini added 10 points for the Saints.