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Stevenson's Jalen Brunson (15) tries to get a shot past Mundelein's Sean O'Brien (33) during the first quarter of Wednesday evening's Waukegan Sectional semifinal. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Stevenson was 10 points better than Mundelein in a pair of regular season meetings and the Patriots were 10 points better again on Wednesday.
The Patriots' 78-68 victory in the Class 4A sectional semifinals at Waukegan vaults them into Friday’s Round of 16 game against either Zion-Benton or St. Viator.
The Patriots will be favored against either team, mainly because they have the best player in the tournament in sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson.
Mundelein tried everything, including double-teaming Brunson, but just couldn’t contain the budding superstar.
Brunson finished with 28 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field, including five three-pointers. He also was 6-of-6 from the stripe in the fourth quarter to nail down the win.
“I felt confident tonight, especially after hitting some early shots,” said Brunson, who had a 12-point first quarter. “We all stepped up as a team tonight.”
That included sophomore Connor Cashaw, who had 18 points after shaking off a 1-of-7 start from the field.
“It was a tough first half for me, but I got things going in the fourth,” Cashaw said. “I kept attacking the basket and shots started falling.
“We did a great job winning the 50-50 balls, and we played really well as a team.”
Sean O’Brien led Mundelein with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Chino Ebube had 16 points, and Robert Knar ended a great prep career with seven points.
Mundelein shot 26-of-46 from the field, but just 8-of-22 from behind the arc.
Mundelein was figured to be the team to beat in Lake County after Zion-Benton had standout JaVairius Amos-Mays transfer to North Chicago.
But Knar tore his ACL last summer, ending his chances of becoming Lake County’s all-time leading scorer. He played the last half-dozen games, but it wasn’t the same.
“This is a special group of kids,” said Richard Knar, Mundelein’s coach and Robert’s father, who coached many of the Mustangs since they were in fourth grade. “I feel a sense of unfinished [business] right now. If the season was a month longer, we would be a completely different team. I’m proud of this group of kids. They never gave up.”