Stephens’ complete effort in Shootout allows Suns to pull away in fourth quarter
QUINCY — Just give Danny the ball.
“That’s pretty much what we did,” Southeastern boys basketball coach Brett Ufkes said. “He usually makes me look good.”
Sure, Ufkes was having a little bit of postgame fun Saturday when discussing senior Danny Stephens’ performance in the KHQA-American Family Insurance Superfan Shootout at Quincy Notre Dame’s The Pit. But there was no denying Stephens was the central figure in Southeastern’s 56-41 victory over Steeleville.
The 6-foot-7 Stephens pocketed 31 points — at halftime he had personally outscored Steeleville 21-20 — while playing every position on the floor.
Post him up? Normally he’ll respond with a turnaround jumper off the glass.
Set him up as the off guard? He’ll drain a 3-pointer.
How about running the offense? That’s never a problem, since he’s an above-average passer and can motor right through most presses, even breaking out a behind-the-back dribble if needed.
And let’s not forget the French pastry he’ll add on occasion, like a breakaway, one-handed dunk, which he did on Saturday.
‘”He’s good, man,” Steeleville coach Aaron Fiene said. “He’s good.”
The Stephens-led Suns (23-5), who have won seven in a row, were only mildly threatened once by Steeleville (14-12), thanks to that 21-point first half Stephens strung together. The Suns were able to keep control of the game despite a variety of defenses designed to slow the momentum Stephens provided.
“It’s a little annoying by this time of the season, but I’m used to it,” Stephens said about being the target of added defensive pressure, which can often be accompanied by some extra physical play. “I enjoy the pressure situations.”
Stephens scored 13 points in the first quarter, eight in the second, five in the third and nine in the fourth before exiting early.
That 38-33 lead going into the final quarter was quickly heightened when Stephens rattled off nine quick points and Southeastern was back in control.
Fiene admitted it really didn’t matter what Steeleville tried to do on defense.
“(Stephens) would just pass the ball for an assist,” he said.
That’s because there is now a stronger supporting cast.
“We’re getting a lot of guys contributing now,” Stephens said. “I think we’re almost where we need to be heading into the (postseason) tournament to make another deep run.”
A year ago, the Suns finished 28-4 and won their first sectional title since 1992.
Ufkes agrees with Stephens.
“What’s helping is a lot of our other guys have developed as the year has progressed, and they’re playing with a lot more confidence,” said Ufkes, whose club plays host to Quincy Notre Dame on Monday night.
Aiden Akers, a 6-foot sophomore, scored nine points and matched Stephens’ four rebounds. Austin Stoneking, Josh Kaltenbach, Owen Riugg and Mason Fry also registered points.
Noah Fiene (11) and Evan Reitz (10) paced Steeleville’s scoring.
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