Stevenson didn't exactly enter the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on their best note.
Although the No. 2 Patriots were 8-0, their win against North Suburban Lake rival Warren right before Proviso West came by a single point and head coach Pat Ambrose was noticeably displeased after the game. The Blue Devils slowed the game down, slowed down junior star point guard Jalen Brunson and hit the offensive glass hard and Stevenson looked like they would need to address some weaknesses going forward.
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But after navigating the brutal 32-team field at Proviso West -- and besting multiple ranked opponents -- Stevenson should be thrilled as they now enter the main stretch in a loaded North Suburban Lake. The Patriots defeated a very good Morton team in the quarterfinals before handing St. Joseph their first loss of the season in the semifinals to set up the championship game win over Morgan Park.
Although Brunson was just 7-for-21 from the field in the title game, the Patriots rallied around their star and junior backcourt running mate Connor Cashaw had a tremendous Proviso West tournament in his own right.
Cashaw went for 30 points and nine rebounds against St. Joseph and he's improved immensely since the summer. That one-two punch, along with emerging role player Matt Johnson, has Stevenson rolling and they're in prime position to be a favorite in Class 4A.
Did any league in the state have a better holiday tournament week than the North Suburban Lake?
Stevenson took home the Proviso West title and Zion-Benton captured the championship at the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs, but both of those teams were expected to do significant damage in those events.
But how about 12-2 Lake Forest?
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In a wide-open Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York, Lake Forest put a lot of questions to rest going forward about how good they can be.
Despite star junior forward Evan Boudreaux's foul trouble in the championship game against host York, Lake Forest knocked off the previously unbeaten Dukes in their home gym -- at their home tournament -- for an eye-opening win.
The 6-foot-7 Boudreaux is the lone returning starter from last season's Scouts, but his new running mates in the starting lineup have quickly proved to be more than adequate replacements. Cal Miller has played well and went for 19 points in the title game and Lake Forest's entire team played with a lot of poise and confidence once their star picked up his third foul in the first half of the win against York.
Can the Scouts compete with the likes of the Patriots and Zee-Bees for the North Suburban Lake title? That's hard to say at this point, but the North Suburban Lake will be fun to watch -- and deep -- as Lake Zurich, Libertyville and a surging Warren that went 3-1 at Pontiac are no joke either.