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Stevenson guard Jalen Brunson was brutally efficient, scoring 32 points and missing just six shots. He stepped up exactly when his team needed him, making a high-level drive to the basket to thwart Marian Catholic’s comeback attempt.
Marian Catholic guard Tyler Ulis was quiet for the first three quarters. In the fourth he was dominant, scoring 18 points and dishing off three of his nine assists. Ulis nearly orchestrated a comeback for the ages.
The state’s two best guards lived up to the hype, thrilling a capacity crowd at the When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East in Lombard Saturday. Stevenson knocked off top-ranked Marian Catholic 76-66. The Patriots are unbeaten with their starting lineup intact, the only loss coming to Zion-Benton without Matt Johnson.
Brunson shot 8-for-14 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. The Patriots hadn’t scored a field goal for a six-minute stretch of the fourth quarter when Brunson (with Ulis guarding him), spun loose and exploded down the baseline for a layup.
“I tried to dribble away from the defenders and then I saw some space,” Brunson said. “I got through for the layup and put a little English on the ball.”
That made it 69-63 Patriots with just under a minute to play. Stevenson had led my as much as 17 late in the third quarter.
Two free throws from TJ Parham brought Marian Catholic (15-2) within 70-66 with 30 seconds to play. Ki-Jana Crawford fouled Johnson on the inbounds and then lost his temper and was called for a technical.
“That’s a little bit of his football stuff,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “Maybe Richard Sherman came out of him a little bit.”
Johnson hit both free throws and Brunson drained the technical free throws to seal the big win.
Ulis’ play in the fourth quarter was remarkable. He scored or assisted on 26 consecutive points, trimming a 17-point Stevenson lead down to just three. The Kentucky recruit finished with 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
But it wasn’t enough.
“(Ulis) can do everything,” said Brunson. “He’s a great leader, I just admire the way he plays.”
Connor Cashaw was a force for No. 5 Stevenson (17-1), scoring 20 and grabbing 10 rebounds. Johnson finished with 16 points and Matt Morrissey added four points and eight rebounds.
“(Ulis) is the fastest player I’ve ever played against,” said Morrissey. “When he makes that shot over your hands you just have to run back down court.”
Parham scored 16 and grabbed seven boards for the Spartans and Ezra Pointer-Jones added eight off the bench.
“I played terrible,” said Ulis. “I didn’t come through today.”