Brown propels Proviso East into finals

Proviso East's Sterling Brown throws down a dunk in Friday's 4A semifinal win. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.com

PEORIA, Ill. –Proviso East junior Sterling Brown has a ways to go to match the accomplishments of his older brother Shannon Brown, a Phoenix Suns guard who starred at Michigan State.

But on Friday, Sterling finally found a way to one-up Shannon, first simply playing in the state tournament and then by starring in it. Brown led Proviso East to a 55-45 win over Rockford Auburn in the Class 4A state semifinals.

“It is really big,” Sterling said. “He was never able to get down here. He lost in the super-sectionals his junior year [at Proviso East]. It just feels good to do something he never did and hopefully we can win a championship like he never did.”

Sterling had begun separating himself from Shannon during his junior season, and he continued to do so Friday. While Sterling’s teammates felt the butterflies of playing on the big stage and struggled early against Auburn, Sterling acted as he had been there before.

Sterling scored all four of Proviso East’s points in the first quarter, had six points and seven rebounds by halftime and kept on producing the rest of the way. He finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

“I think Sterling understands what it’s all about,” Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. “I think with Shannon being his older brother, he’s played in his shadows. I think he has really stepped out of Shannon’s shadows and has made his own identity.

“I think Sterling has a better overall feeling for the game [than Shannon]. Shannon is more athletic, better outside shooter. I think Sterling, when it’s all said and done, will be the better player because of his length and the many different things he can do on the court.”

With Sterling the only player clicking early, Proviso East (32-0) had to rely on its defense to get it by Auburn. The Pirates threw two defenders at Auburn star guard Fred Van Vleet, a Wichita State recruit, and forced his teammates to beat them.

The plan worked to perfection. Proviso East held Van Vleet to two points and forced him into six turnovers in the first half while the Pirates went ahead 20-13 at halftime. The Pirates extended their advantage to double digits in the third quarter.

Van Vleet got his points by the end of the game, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was too late for Auburn. Proviso East’s lead was never trimmed to less than seven points.

“I thought it obviously wasn’t the best played game,” Boyce said. “I thought in the first half and part of the third quarter we did a great job of shutting down and containing Van Vleet, but he’s such a great point guard.

Paris Burns (14 points) and Javon Carter (nine points) contributed for Proviso East.

It was the second time Proviso East defeated Auburn (31-3) this season. The Pirates first knocked off Auburn off in the Proviso West holiday tournament semifinals in December.