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Take a glance through the Proviso West Holiday Tournament program and read the names: Isiah Thomas, Glenn Rivers, Mark Aguirre, Kevin Garnett, Ronnie Fields, Corey Maggette, Jon Scheyer, Dee Brown. There are too many to mention. The tournament’s long and rich history is built on superstars.
It’s almost time to add another name to the list. Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson is only a junior, but his performance Monday in the semifinals against St. Joseph was the first step towards inclusion in that elite group.
Brunson scored 32 points, had six assists, eight rebounds and four steals to lead the No. 1 Patriots to an 85-71 victory against the No. 9 Charges. He shot 10-for-19 from the field, 10-for-11 from the free throw line. He made every player on his team better, playing with a floor sense and court awareness rarely seen in high school basketball.
And he did it all against two Division I-bound guards: St. Joseph’s Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash.
“He just gets better,” Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. “The game slows down [for him] and he gets faster.”
Patriots junior Connor Cashaw (30 points) is Brunson’s Scottie Pippen. Cashaw can do a bit of everything on the basketball court. He’s a witness to Brunson’s evolution into a superstar.
“[Brunson] is just always in the gym,” Cashaw said. “And yes, absolutely, it’s like he gets better every game.”
St. Joseph headed into the game with an 11-0 record and a squad that featured better individual talent man-for-man than Stevenson. It was supposed to be the first real test of the season for the Patriots.
A jumper from Matt Morrissey with 2:20 to play in the third quarter capped a 15-0 Stevenson run that made it 60-39. The Patriots (12-0) never let up, passing their first real test with flying colors.
“We are more determined because of last year,” Brunson said. “I think we are off to a good start but there is always room for improvement.”
Watson led St. Joseph (11-1) with 20 points. Ash added 17 and Joffery Brown scored 16. Nick Rakocevic added 14 points and eight boards.
The Patriots will face the Bogan vs. Morgan Park winner in the championship game Tuesday. Brunson has yet to defeat a high-level Public League team. Stevenson lost to Morgan Park at last year’s Proviso West Tournament and was defeated by Simeon in the Class 4A state championship game.
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