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Lincolnshire Friday, 1/18/13 Stevenson's Justin Berkson (23) drives past Zion Benton's Gabriel Ramirez (24) during the second quarter of Friday evening's game. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
It’s not just crowded at the top of the North Suburban Lake standings.
Stevenson’s 66-56 victory over visiting Zion-Benton on Friday means that four of the division’s seven teams (Lake Forest, Mundelein, Z-B and Stevenson) all have two league losses.
Friday’s win for Stevenson was fashioned by a fast start and dogged determination when Zion battled back.
And, of course, it didn’t hurt that Z-B star Milik Yarbrough fouled out on an offensive-charge call with 2:19 to play.
Yarbrough finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and his departure came with Stevenson ahead 58-51.
His fifth foul was the first of four Z-B fouls (three personal, one technical) in a three-second span that ended Stevenson ahead 62-51.
Sophomore sensation Jalen Brunson led the winners with 26 points. He was 12-of-15 from the foul line and grabbed eight rebounds.
Fellow sophomore Connor Cashaw added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The duo combined for 16 of Stevenson’s 22 fourth-quarter points.
“It was a really important game. They were our first loss. To come back and beat them on our home court feels really good,” Brunson said. “Coach [Pat] Ambrose really pushed us this week. He really wanted this one, and that got us fired up.”
The game started out as though Stevenson would win in a romp.
After five minutes of play, the Patriots had 12 points and Zion-Benton had yet to scratch.
Yet, by the time the first frame concluded, the Zee-Bees had pulled to within 14-9.
Zion took the lead at 20-17 early in the second quarter, but by intermission, Stevenson was back on top 32-30 in a foul-marred half that featured 23 personal fouls.
For the game, there were 47 total fouls.
The teams combined for 58 free throws, with Stevenson shooting 22-for-34 and Zion 19-for-24.
“It’s a long road,” Ambrose said of the NSC Lake race. “We knew if we fell behind two games and two games to the division leader, that it would be really tough for us, so this was a big game.”
On the other side, Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth said this about the game.
“We had a bad start, fought back and going into the fourth quarter, I felt pretty good about where we were at,” he said. “In a close game like this, every turnover and every rebound matters and we got into a situation where we had to foul. Stevenson did a good job hitting their free throws.
“We knew it would be a hard fought game. I just wish we would have executed better.”
Zion is now 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the division. Stevenson is 13-4 and also 5-2.