HILLSIDE – St. Charles East standout Kendall Stephens woke up Wednesday morning with a stiff neck, but it was the Von Steuben boys basketball team that felt the pain during the opening round of Proviso West Holiday Tournament action.
Stephens loosened up enough to nail 8-of-14 shots from the field en route to a game-high 22 points as the Saints rolled over Von Steuben, 70-36, in their Proviso debut.
The Saints (8-2) move on in the winner’s draw to play Stevenson at 3:45 p.m. today. East is a new entry at the prestigious Proviso West Tournament, which expanded to a 32-team field this year.
“I slept wrong last night,” said Stephens, as he nursed an ice pack on his neck after the game. “It didn’t bother me.”
“To be honest, I didn’t know about it until the second quarter, so it didn’t bother me at all,” Saints coach Pat Woods said of Stephens’ neck. “And the way he was playing, it still didn’t bother me. Hopefully it gets better for [today].”
“One of our freshmen, [James] McQuillan, we knew he had a stiff neck. It must be going around the team.”
The Saints led 10-9 before going on a 9-0 run to end the first quarter with a 19-9 lead. Forwards A.J. Washington and Dan Wilkerson had buckets to start the run and Stephens buried one two-point and one 3-point bucket to finish it.
“We wanted to come out, execute and hit them with the first punch,” said Stephens, who also had three steals and a blocked shot.
“We got off to a slow start, but toward the end of the first quarter we started executing and playing well.”
The Saints continued the run in the second quarter, scoring on a David Mason three-point play, a 3 by Stephens and two free throws from Stephens to finish the 17-0 run and take a 27-9 lead.
“[We were] patient on offense,” Stephens said. “It made everything flow easily. Dom Adduci did a great job of distributing the ball and looking for the open man.”
The Saints kept pounding the Panthers (4-2), increasing their lead to 38-16 at the half and 57-27 after three quarters.
By tournament rules, anytime a team leads by 30 points or more after three quarters, a running clock is used in the fourth, meaning the teams played a very quick final eight minutes.
“We were happy with how we played,” Woods said. “Day after Christmas, we were a little sluggish the first four minutes, but that’s kind of expected after the holiday.
“We were very active in our zone, which is good. Our size caused some problems [for them]. Offensively, Kendall was great, and we had a lot of other guys that were threats, as well.”
The Saints shot 51 percent (27 of 53) from the field and 40 percent (8 of 20) from 3-point land, while holding Von Steuben to 26 percent shooting from the field.
“We just wanted to be long [on defense],” Stephens said. “If they had a knock-down shooter, we would have made adjustments. Fortunately, they weren’t hitting and we were making sure we boxed out.”
Washington finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and a steal and Jake Asquini added 10 points and four rebounds.
“People are going to key on Kendall, so the more our guys can do offensively, the harder it is going to be to guard him,” Woods said.
Every East player who dressed got into the game, and eight scored.
Another area team in its first year at the Proviso West Tournament, Wheaton Academy, dropped its first round matchup with Morgan Park, 78-60. The Warriors fall to 9-2 on the season.