Zion-Benton plays at the northern reaches of the area, generally out of sight and out of mind. Chances to make an impact on the local scene are few and far between.
So Friday’s matchup with top-ranked, undefeated Stevenson had been circled on the calendar for quite awhile.
“We’ve been talking about it all year,” Zion-Benton star Milik Yarbrough said. “At [the Jacobs Holiday Tournament] we were talking about it all the time. We knew it was coming and we knew we had to stop Jalen Brunson.”
No team had stopped Brunson all season. The junior guard dominated the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The No. 10 Zee-Bees didn’t stop Brunson, he scored a game-high 27 points, but they frustrated him enough to pull out a 70-69 overtime win in front of a packed house in Zion, at the gym they call The Hive.
Maurice Young guarded Brunson the majority of the game, with help from Fred Calvert. Brunson shot 9-for-36 from the field.
“We’ve played Brunson a lot, it’s just all off of instinct,” Young said. “We thought no one had really played him tough enough so that’s what we tried to do.”
“[Young and Calvert] are animals,” Yarbrough said. “They said it all week, that no matter what happens Brunson will not beat us. They knew they could get in his head.”
Calvert was the hero in overtime. His driving basket with nine seconds to play gave Zion-Benton (13-1, 4-0 North Suburban Lake) the lead for good. Stevenson turned the ball over on the final possession to seal the win for the Zee-Bees.
Yarbrough (24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) drained a three with 10 seconds to play in regulation that tied the game. There were two men in his face and he’d done way too much dribbling before the shot.
“I was taking that shot no matter what, my teammates wanted me to,” Yarbrough said. “They said they were riding with me or dying with me.”
Admiral Schofield added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Zion-Benton. Jerome Davis was a force off the bench with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Mubarak Bakr and Calvert each scored eight. Zion-Benton turned the ball over 28 times.
There was a minor incident in the handshake line after the game. The post-game pleasantries were aborted and the teams were sent to opposite ends of the gym.
“It was a real team effort,” Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth said. “So many people got in foul trouble. It was just a hard-fought game that could have gone either way.”
Connor Cashaw scored 25 and grabbed 12 rebounds for Stevenson (13-1, 3-1). Parker Nichols and Matt Morrissey each scored seven for the Patriots. Stevenson starter Matt Johnson could not play after being ejected from the Proviso West Holiday Tournament title game.