Then came Saturday night and a date with John Bartram, at Abraham Lincoln, for the Class AAAA City Title.
Because star junior swingman Miles Overton (thumb surgery to repair a displaced ligament) was unavailable, Stewart moved up one spot in the rotation. After scoring seven points and accounting for six more with a pair of nifty assists, all of which helped the Prep triumph, 63-56, Stewart went the unabashed-joy route.
When public-address man Jake Schwartz announced that Ed McGettigan, Lincoln's football coach and athletic director, would be presenting the CT plaque, Stewart scrambled right over and accepted it.
He continued to hold the plaque in the first round of celebratory, players-only team photos. Then, after the coaches and managers joined in, there was T-Stew, lying on the floor in front of everyone, holding up his right index finger.
Addressing his plaque snatch, Stewart laughed and said, "I just went and got it. I was just really happy about the win. We worked so hard all week. It's a championship. It's what we've wanted all year."
One can only imagine how much disappointment Stewart felt about not getting to play at the Palestra.
"Obviously, it wasn't that good," he said. "But we have a very strong team and the guys who were out there are excellent players. I love all of them.
"Instead of moping around and being all soft about it, I decided to cheer everyone on and bring us whatever positive energy I could from the bench."
Coach William "Speedy" Morris, who'd last won a City Title in 1974 at Roman Catholic, said one part of the ligament in Overton's thumb retreated back toward the wrist, making doctors feel immediate surgery was necessary.
Morris' son/assistant, Keith, said Overton first hurt the thumb in practice nearly 2-plus weeks ago, when he was playing defense and it got caught (and snapped back) in a teammate's jersey.
After playing in Monday night's CL final, Overton, whose thumb had recently been bandaged, did not practice all week. So Stewart knew he'd be needed.
He made appearances in all four quarters, adding three rebounds and one blocked shot to his seven points and two assists. His field goals were treys and that was definitely part of the pattern. The Hawks attempted 45 shots and just 11 were twos. They went 13-for-34 from beyond the arc.
Stewart was 2-for-3, having entered 9-for-31 for the season.
"The coaches told me if I'm open to shoot it, and to feel confident about it," he said. "I did feel very confident. They felt good coming off the hand."
Stewart nailed his first trey in the third quarter as the Hawks used a 21-18 advantage to move within 44-42. Treyball No. 2, off a pass from Gene Williams (14 points, four treys) capped a pulsating 14-4 run that made it 56-48 with 2: 25 remaining.
Mostly, the fourth stanza belonged to junior combo guard Stephen Vasturia, who has already committed to Notre Dame. He poured in 17 points, lifting his game total to 35 (six treys, 9-for-9 at line), and no one would have predicted such lofty heights at halftime, considering that Vasturia owned seven points after shooting 3-for-12.
By the way, the 35 points give Vasturia a share of the CT record. Wilt Chamberlain (maybe you've heard of him?) hit that number in 1955 while leading Overbrook past West Catholic.
Thanks to 8-for-9 marksmanship, Terrieck Williams led Bartram with 17 points. Gary Gordon and Jared Bryant added 10 apiece while Bo Murray, responsible for holding down Vasturia until beset by foul trouble, plucked nine rebounds.
The last two Stewarts are Alex, a sophomore JV player at the Prep, and Theresa, who can be found in the CYO hoops program at Holy Family, in Phoenixville.
Though Tom, who kidded that he's "working on that middle-child thing," is unsure of his college plans, he felt confident the Hawks would win despite some early stumblings (21-12 deficit).
"We tend to come out flat sometimes," he said. "But we have too many good shooters. Somebody had to catch fire."
Going 2-for-3 on treys after seeing no action in the previous two games? Count Tom Stewart among the somebodies.
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