“Patriots on Three, Family on Six.”

Stevenson Boys Basketball loses 45-44 on a buzzer-beater three in the Semi-Sectionals against Prospect.

Brandon Sorokin ’23 shares a moment with his mother after the game. Sorokin hit several big shots throughout the game to give Stevenson the momentum down the stretch.

Ansh Aggarwal

Brandon Sorokin ’23 shares a moment with his mother after the game. Sorokin hit several big shots throughout the game to give Stevenson the momentum down the stretch.

If they win, they advance. If they lose, their season’s over.

That pressure was placed on Stevenson as they found themselves down four points with 30 seconds left. The players on the court, the bench, the student section and even fans watching at home felt the pressure as Stevenson fought to keep their season and championship aspirations alive.

Heading into the matchup on March 1 against Prospect High School, Stevenson knew this game would be close. Several weeks ago on Jan. 21 in a non-conference game, the Patriots lost to Prospect in a nail-biter by one point.

From the start of the game, it was clear that both teams were evenly matched with neither team letting up and allowing the other to gain leverage. During the first quarter when Stevenson went on a scoring run, Prospect responded with a run of their own. This put the back-and-forth game at 8-7 to end the first quarter.

Throughout the first half, Prospect senior Alex Georgakas’s number was called. Play after play, he remained patient and didn’t force shots. Georgakas utilized switches and mismatches to find himself or a teammate a good shot. Stevenson initially played man defense on Georgakas which allowed him to go on a scoring run.

“The main gameplan for Georgakas was to limit his touches,” guard David Sulnius ’23 said. “We really tried to deny the ball as much as possible, and early on we didn’t do that.”

After Coach Patrick Ambrose switched Michael Maloney ’23 and Sulnius on Georgakas in the start of the third, his scoring eventually slowed. However, Stevenson’s defense faltered in the rest of the game as Prospect point guard Ben Snider and forward Charlie Gilmer stepped up to hit big shots down the stretch.

“There were times where maybe we got a little bit tired defensively in the second half,” Stevenson guard Brandon Sorokin ’23 said.

For Stevenson, the main game plan was to hit the post and find the open shooter. Stevenson had the height advantage against Prospect, so Prospect would have no choice but to double post players.

David Sulnius ’23 looks to get a bucket for Stevenson down the stretch. Sulnius has been Stevenson’s go-to-guy all season and stepped up when they needed him the most on the biggest stage. (Ansh Aggarwal)

“We’re all scorers, so we really just moved the ball around until we got a good shot,” Sulnius said. “We looked to the post because [Prospect] didn’t have any bigs.”

Although Stevenson’s height advantage played to their favor on offense, on the other side of the court, Prospect’s faster guards were easily able to get past Stevenson defenders. Heading into the fourth quarter, Stevenson found themselves down 35-29.

In the last eight minutes of the intense back-and-forth game, the Patriots put their heads down and looked for opportunities near the basket. This strategy had kept them in the game despite heroics from Georgakas on offense.

“During a high-intensity game like this, shots won’t fall,” Sulnius said. “We looked to get to the basket, get to the free-throw line, and find what was working.”

Although Georgakas’s scoring streak had slowed by the fourth quarter, he stayed aggressive and forced Stevenson’s defense to double him, leaving shooters such as Cole Chapman open from three.

With less than a minute left, Stevenson was down 43-39 with the momentum in Prospect’s favor. In order to recover, Stevenson realized it needed a string of defensive stops and quick baskets on offense.

“I felt a sense of urgency [during the last minute of the game] because we were down,” Sulnius said. “We had to pick up the pace.”

Stevenson intentionally fouled Georgakas to kill the clock, putting the last man they wanted at the line. However, luck played to their favor and despite hitting shot after shot throughout the game, Georgakas missed the most important one at the charity stripe.

Aidan Bardic ’25 gets down the lane for the shot deep in the paint. Throughout the game, Bardic stepped up to get the Patriots big buckets. (Ansh Aggarwal)

Down 42-38 with 30 seconds left, Aidan Bardic ’25 took the ball up the court for what could have been the last time of the season. Driving down the right lane, Bardic drew a foul and sank both free throws to cut it down to a one-possession game.

Game on the line, Stevenson needed a miracle to get the lead this late in the game. Down two with less than 30 seconds left, Stevenson would be forced to foul immediately after Prospect inbounded. However Armand Burris ’24 answered the prayers of the team, fans, and parents who all watched him pick off a careless inbounds pass giving Stevenson one last possession to tie or win the game. One last chance to head to the promised land, or end the season early.

After a timeout, Stevenson inbounded the ball to Bardic who then found Sulnius on the right wing. Sulnius tricked his defender with a smooth pump fake and got deep into the painted area. Once again, Sulnius hit the help defense with another pump fake, absorbed the contact, drew a foul and banked a shot for a chance at a three-point play.

Tying the game with the opportunity to take the lead at the line, Sulnius dribbled the ball three times, spun it in his hands and then shot it. The ball hit the front rim, bounced two times on the left side and finally fell into the basket to put the crowd on their feet and Stevenson up one point.

The student section showed up to support the team for this pivotal game. All season, fans have regularly attended games to cheer on classmates and friends. (Ansh Aggarwal)

With just seven seconds left on the clock, Prospect had to take the ball up the length of a court as they had no timeouts. Pushing the ball down the court, the fate of Prospect was placed on Ben Snider’s shoulders. Snider got to the right wing, crossed over and hit a deep mid-range shot over two defenders to win the game for Prospect right at the buzzer. Stevenson and Prospect fans alike were in shock and disbelief. The Knights’ student section stormed the court to celebrate the sophomore’s prayer from deep.

This moment encapsulated the two sides of basketball: the victors and the losers. Regardless of what side players were on, they were in tears.

“I started crying right after because I knew it was over,” Sulnius said. “I thought we had this one in the bag but good players are going to hit that shot if you give it to them.”

With Prospect celebrating their win to advance to the sectionals, Stevenson was left to process their emotions. With the season cut short, memories and emotions overwhelmed the team.

“I was personally heartbroken,” Sorokin said. “We all were very emotional.”

Although the season came to an earlier end than the team had hoped, the playoff run Stevenson’s Boys Basketball team had this season has been signified by a plaque for their Regional Finals victory in the Sports Center lobby. For the Patriots’ graduating seniors, their loss at Semi-Sectionals represents the end of the season and the end of the memories they have made as members of the team.

“It’s just a really surreal feeling, but I’m always going to remember the culture the most,” Sulnius said. “With Coach Ambrose and my teammates, we were always a family on and off the court. All the hard times we went through, the good times, the fun times, that’s what basketball at Stevenson’s all about.”