PEORIA — The Edwardsville Tigers fell 70-63 to (Lincolnshire) Stevenson in the third-place game of the Class 4A state tournament on Saturday night at Carver Arena.
But the game itself did little to measure up to the pregame drama concerning the eligibility of Patriots all-state junior guard Jalen Brunson
Brunson was suspended Saturday afternoon after a photograph showed Brunson allegedly making an obscene gesture in the final minute of Stevenson's semifinal loss to (Chicago) Whitney Young on Friday.
However, an appeal to the IHSA's board of directors was granted and Brunson was cleared to play minutes before the scheduled 6:30 p.m. tip.
If the suspension was upheld, there was a possibility that the Patriots might not play the game.
"That was under consideration by our superintendent making the decision at last moment," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "(We found out Brunson could play) about five minutes before (taking the floor). I've never seen them change that fast. We didn't need much warm up."
The IHSA released a statement regarding the decision to overturn the initial decision by Executive Director Marty Hickman.
"The board respects Dr. Hickman's initial decision and believe it was the correct decision based on the resources he had at the time," said IHSA Board President and Wauconda High School Principal Dan Klett. "There is precedence for individuals being suspended from IHSA State Final contests for this type of conduct.
"This was a unique situation in terms of how the gesture was brought to our attention via social media. As a board, we wanted the opportunity to hear from the student-athlete and review additional materials. After doing so, the board agreed that the gesture could have been inappropriate. However, without additional supporting evidence, we could not make the determination that the gesture was intended as an unsportsmanlike action and chose to overturn the ruling."
Following the game Brunson did not talk about what was discussed in the meeting, but did say it was an emotional day.
"Up and down, but right now it's definitely up," said Brunson, who is considered one of the top point guards in the class of 2015. "It was refreshing to be able to step on the court one last time with Matt Morrissey."
Morrissey, one of three seniors on Stevenson, said the rest of the team was behind Brunson.
"We're all brothers on this team and he's all of our best friend," Stevenson senior Matt Morrissey said. "This is tough for all of us right now, but we're happy for the win."
Brunson led Stevenson with 18 points, but Connor Cashaw, with 17, and Morrissey, with 16, did much of the heavy lifting to help the Patriots (32-2) build a 54-42 lead through three quarters.
Stevenson made 10 3-pointers as Edwardsville gave up open looks in trying to contain Brunson, who scored 56 points against Whitney Young.
Brunson scored nine points in the fourth quarter, all from the free-throw line.
"We wanted to try and limit his opportunities. Darius (Crochrell) did good job with that," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "We made guys shoot 3s and they made them. That's the game plan did that. Question the game plan, not the players."
The Tigers (30-4), who finished third at the Class 4A state tournament in 2013, got 21 points from Trevor Clay, 16 from Shawn Roundtree and 15 from Armon Fletcher.