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Stevenson eager to harvest top seed
By Patricia Babcock McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/31/2013 9:53 PM

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As far as planting a seed goes, the Stevenson boys basketball team has done just that ahead of next week’s IHSA seeding process.

The 16-4 Patriots, who have won six straight games and nine of their last 11, have proven that they deserve heavy consideration for the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Waukegan sectional, which includes all of Lake County’s Class 4A teams as well as some from northwest Cook County and McHenry from McHenry County.

Coaches will send in their rankings of the 23-team field on Wednesday based on record and, theoretically, strength of schedule.

A top sectional seed would be the first for head coach Pat Ambrose in his 14 seasons at Stevenson.

“The No. 1 seed is definitely a validation that you’re working hard and having a nice season,” Ambrose said. “I also think it can help with the focus of the team, if you have the kind of players who can handle that. I think we have those kinds of players. It would motivate them.

“I think we would know that if we got a No. 1 seed, that there are plenty of really good teams out there and that we wouldn’t be getting anything handed to us.”

Stevenson has already handed out losses to some of the top teams in the Waukegan field. The Patriots have gotten wins over Zion-Benton,Lake Forest and Mundelein.

Meanwhile, two of their losses have come to state-ranked teams, Morgan Park and Oswego. Those occurred at the prestigious Proviso West holiday tournament, where Stevenson finished 3-2 and came within one win of playing in the championship game.

“I think you’ve got to think that Stevenson is probably going to get that No. 1 seed,” Mundelein coach Dick Knar said. “That team is not only a good basketball team, it’s a talented basketball team.

“They’ve got (sophomore guard) Jalen Brunson and the game just comes so easily to him. You could compare him to (former Warren star and Illinois guard) Brandon Paul or (former Zion-Benton star and Ohio State guard) Lenzelle Smith. Then there’s (sophomore guard) Connor Cashaw, who is another Division I type of player for them and (junior forward) Matt Morrissey is probably going to play Division I football. That team is so athletically talented and they’re all smart players, too.”

Meanwhile, Knar believes his team is worthy of top-four consideration but could finish lower, based on its 12-9 record.

The case in favor of the Mustangs is that they have beaten Zion-Benton, Lake Forest and even Neuqua Valley, which has been state-ranked. Meanwhile, two of their losses were suffered in California over the holidays at the prestigious Torrey Pines tournament, which draws some of the top high school teams in the nation.

Also, Mundelein has been riddled with injuries this season, with the biggest one being the knee injury of leading scorer Robert Knar, who is still rehabbing after surgery to repair a torn ACL.

The star guard is just 24 points shy of becoming Mundelein’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,900 points.

“I could see us getting an eight or nine seed because of our record, but if we got a four seed, I would understand that, too,” Knar said. “If people take into consideration our schedule and the fact that we’ve had injuries but that our injured guys are either back or coming back, they’d probably rank us higher.

“We’re a tough team.”

The Mustangs will get even tougher when Knar returns. He is projecting that he’ll be playing again in time to get a couple of regular season games in before the tournament starts.

“A lot of it will just depend on what coaches look at,” Ambrose said. “Will they look at strength of schedule and number of wins and home games versus road games and injuries? All of that should be considered and I know coaches will look at it. But how much weight they give all that is the question.”

More good seeds:

In Class 3A, expect perennial power North Chicago to sit atop the Antioch sectional.

Lakes, which hosts North Chicago on Friday in a fight for the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division title, should also receive a high seed.

“We’re so excited to be hosting the sectional,” said Antioch coach Jim White, whose team has struggled to a 2-16 record this season. “We’d love to be there, of course, but even if we’re not, it’s going to be a great experience for our kids to watch basketball at that level. We hosted a regional last year, and it was a lot of fun for our guys.”