PEORIA — The Lincolnshire Stevenson Patriots proved once and for all Friday that there truly is more than one way to skin a cat. Or in this case a Tiger.
After riddling the Edwardsville defense for 10 3-point baskets in a little over three quarters, the Patriots got acrobatic layups from Matthew Morrissey and Connor Cashaw in the final two minutes and went on for a 60-49 win over Edwardsville in the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament.
With sophomore Jalen Brunson and Andrew Stempel combining to go 8-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc and scoring 35 points, the Patriots overcame a rough start with a big second quarter as they move into their first championship game in three state tournament appearances.
"One of the things we can do is shoot the basketball, but you've got to be able to stop the other team from scoring and I thought we did a great job of that in the final three quarters," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "We knew they (Edwardsville) would make a run at us in the second half. They are a great team. But our kids made plays down the stretch when we needed them too."
The win lifts Stevenson (29-4) into the state title game at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday against Chicago Simeon. Edwardsville (30-3) will take on (Maywood) Proviso East in the third-place game at Carver Arena at 6:30 p.m.
Led by All-American and Duke recruit Jabari Parker's 20 points and University of Illinois bound Kendrick Nunn's 14, Simeon outlasted Proviso East 68-56 in the first Class 4A semifinal.
Simeon will be out for its fourth straight state title, a feat equaled only by Peoria Manual from 1984-87 in Class AA. East St. Louis Lincoln, coached by Bennie Lewis, won three straight titles from 1987-89.
But thanks to 51-percent shooting (20-39), it's the Patriots and not the Tigers who will have the chance to prevent history Saturday.
"I thought we did a good jog of executing on defense but they (Stevenson) hit shots anyway. Some nights it just goes that way,'' Tigers coach Mike Waldo said. "In our case, we had a lot of shots go in and out on us. I thought our guys played hard and I was pleased with our execution. They (Stevenson) just made more shots than we did tonight."
With Garret Covington scoring seven of his team-high 18 points, Edwardsville led for much of the first quarter. But with Brunson, who led all scorers with 21 points, connecting on all four of his first-half shots and Stempel (14 points) adding a pair of long range 3s, the Patriots outscored Edwardsville 22-8 over the final 10 minutes of the first half and led 30-20 at halftime.
Edwardsville would cut the lead to five points twice in the fourth quarter, but each time, Stevenson responded.
"We played hard but it just wasn't enough tonight,'' Tigers senior Shawn Roundtree said. "Now we've got to come back tomorrow and play hard. It's our last game together.''
Making its first state tournament appearance since 2006, Edwardsville started fast against the Patriots.
Getting three quick baskets from Covington, Edwardsville led by five twice in the opening quarter.
But when Brunson nailed his third straight 3, the Patriots trailed just 13-11.
Cameron Green then gave Stevenson its first lead seconds later, but a pair of free throws by Roundtree tied the game at 15 after one period.
The second quarter was all Stevenson as Edwardsville went ice cold.
Andrew Stempel, Connor Cashaw and Justin Berkson all drained 3s to key a 15-5 Patriots run, which ended with a 30-20 halftime lead.
Edwardsville shot just 30 percent (6-of-20) and were a woeful 1-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Stevenson was 6-of-9 on 3-point shots and 10-of-18 overall (55.6 percent) in the first half.