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Stevenson's Jalen Brunson releases a jump shot over Simeon's Edward Morrow (30) Saturday. | Patrick Gleason/for Sun-Times Media
LAKE FOREST — Heading into the Stevenson boys basketball team’s game against Lake Forest Friday, Jalen Brunson had one record in his sights.
The junior guard was sitting on 1,586 career points, 31 shy of the mark set by Chris Coleman.
By the end of Friday’s double-overtime instant classic, he had broken that record and shattered the school’s single-game scoring mark, too. Every one of his 57 points were needed, as Stevenson squeezed out a 95-93 victory over the host Scouts. The packed-to-the-gills Competition Gymnasium on Lake Forest’s East Campus may never have hosted an athletic contest as spellbinding or breathtaking.
“It was crazy,” Stevenson senior forward Matt Morrissey said. “A great team, a great team atmosphere. It will really set us up for the playoffs.”
Brunson began the game as he finished it: firing from everywhere. With Lake Forest sagging a bit in its man-to-man defense, Brunson shot from long range, draining four of his five 3-pointers in the first half. The 6-foot-3 guard seemed to revel in the atmosphere, channeling the energy from the Scouts’ student section.
“I love environments like this,” Brunson said. “They have a lot intensity in their student section. We also brought energy from our bench and from our fans.”
“I know Lake Forest is a game he likes getting up for,” Morrissey added. “He likes playing in this gym.”
A 24-point first half left Brunson eight off the school record. Lake Forest switched up defenses in the third quarter, using a 1-3-1 zone and half-court traps, and Brunson was still a basket away with less than two minutes remaining. But a baseline jumper with 1:15 left put him in the record books, breaking Coleman’s record of 1,617 points.
If Brunson is playing for a high-level Division I program as expected by 2015, the fourth quarter and overtime sessions offered proof he is ready now. In full attack mode, Brunson ducked and weaved his way through a doomed Scouts defense for layup after layup.
“He’s thinking two or three steps ahead of you,” Lake Forest junior guard Jack Traynor said. “He’s such a smart basketball player.”
In the second overtime, the game was set up perfectly for a Brunson closeout. Patriots’ ball, score tied at 93.
As the clock ticked toward 10 seconds, Brunson got around a double team just in front of the half-court line. He dribbled to his left into the lane, stepped around a defender to his right, then scooped in a game-winning, left-handed layup with 6.8 seconds left.
When asked about his big night, Brunson, who finished 19-for-31 from the field, shrugged his shoulders and talked about bigger goals.
“It means a lot but we want to accomplish one goal,” said Brunson, who helped the Patriots to a Class 4A state runner-up finish last season. “Get us back to the same position we were last year and hopefully win it.”
If he plays anywhere like he did Friday, it’s hard to bet against the Patriots doing just that.