LAMAR STEVENS plays basketball with a skill set well beyond his years, so perhaps it was fitting that when the sophomore forward walked to receive his MVP award last night, he maneuvered gingerly like a person of advanced age.
The once sprightly catalyst for team Old School took a tumble the night before and injured his lower back, which still plagued him.
But when you're only 16 years old and desire to announce yourself as a player, what better place than the championship game of the Albert C. Donofrio Classic at the Fellowship House in Conshohocken?
"Last year, when I came I saw the big-time players winning MVP so I knew it was a big-time tournament and I always wanted to come out here and prove myself," Stevens said.
East Brunswick senior Amir Bell (Princeton) led all scorers with 26 points and helped Old School to a 75-66 conquest of the Bucks County All-Stars. However, Stevens, who finished with 18 points (16 in the first half), 12 rebounds and three blocks, took home the Tony Samartino MVP trophy. He averaged 25 points per game in the tournament.
Stevens, a versatile forward for Haverford School with an offer from Villanova, got roughed up last year as a freshman on team Old School so this year he had something to prove.
"I don't think I was really physically ready," he said. "I struggled to get to the cup, which is my best attribute and my jump shot wasn't really as good, or my handle so I think I just improved as an all-round player."
He finished 5-for-11 from the field and 3-for-6 from trey. Matt Klinewski (Lafayette) led Bucks with 21 points and nine rebounds. Trey Lowe added 17 points, 12 boards and four steals.
Martin Luther King's Jabri McCall scored 13 points with seven boards and four assists for Old School. He also won the tournament's Little Big Man Award.
Old School trailed, 24-12, near the middle of the first half, but closed with an 11-0 run to take a 37-35 advantage at the break. Spurred by the shooting touch of Cameron Jones (13 points, three treys), Bucks took off for 10 straight in the second half but Old School roared back with a 9-2 spurt.
Stevens, the son of former Cardinal Dougherty and Widener all-timer Lou Stevens, didn't score a field goal in the second half and struggled at the foul line (5-for-10 overall), but was still effective on the glass.
"It hurts a lot right now," he said. "I was in the pool all day and did a lot of therapy, but I couldn't let my team down so I just pulled myself together and managed to play.
"I just wanted to come out and lead my team. I felt like my game took a big leap from last year in the tournament to now. I just wanted to come out and show I can win by helping my team with whatever it needed."