Connor Stewart said he never thought he would get the chance to play on the same team as his younger brother Shane.
That is, until this past basketball season.
The two were spectators at each other’s games prior to both playing varsity at Liberty High School. Connor, a senior, has played for coach Brian Tombs for three seasons and Shane, a sophomore, was brought up this past season.
Together, the Lions went 14-11 (8-4 in the Carroll County Athletic League) and captured their first regional title in program history.
“It’s been really fun playing with him and trying to teach him new things along the way,” Connor Stewart said. “I was just in his shoes the year before and I went through the exact same lessons. I try to teach him those lessons and get him through it a lot easier than I did.
“It’s a blast being able to play with him … it’s a real blessing to see him grow and it’s helped me grow through my senior season.”
Brent Stewart, the boys’ father and one of the Lions’ assistants, was first a member of Barry Green’s coaching staff on Liberty’s girls side while Stewart’s daughter Sophia played at Mount de Sales. When Connor was a freshman, his father took a step back to watch him play until Tombs asked him to help coach the boys team.
“The North Star for me has always been Connor’s and Shane’s high school experience, not mine,” Brent Stewart said. “They have to enjoy it and want me to be there … that’s the special part and prior to them being there, I enjoyed coaching over the years for Sophia and both boys since fourth grade with travel.”
Sophia and Connor started playing rec basketball for Freedom at a young age and both moved on to the travel program. Shane Stewart said the influence of his siblings helped him get involved with basketball. Like his older brother, Shane started playing in third grade and joined the travel team as well.
Shane Stewart earned Times first-team all-county honors this year after averaging 8.8 points per game. He also shot 47.6% from the floor and scored 11 points in the team’s Class 2A West Region 1 win over rival Century.
Connor Stewart scored 9.8 points per game and led the team in steals (2.7) and assists (2.2) per game en route to a second-team all-county nod.
“Before the season started, I knew I could have the opportunity to play with him and I was excited to finally start playing,” Shane Stewart said. “The first couple games were frustrating because we were yelling at each other but eventually as the season went on, we connected more. It’s a lot of fun and after the games we were able to talk about it at home.
“Playing with him made for a whole season of fun.”
Brent Stewart said their household is a “whirlwind of activity” from start to finish between rushing the kids to and from games and practices, but watching them grow over the years has been rewarding for him and his wife, Monica.
Each of the Stewart children plays multiple sports — Connor and Shane ran cross country in the fall and Connor is set to play lacrosse in the spring. Sophia is a freshman on the Mount St. Mary’s women’s lacrosse team.
“This year was special for me to coach my sons and be a part of their high school careers,” Brent Stewart said. “I am just so proud of them both and the players, teammates and young men they have and are becoming. I will miss Connor being on the basketball court and hopefully the best is yet to come for Shane.
“I am glad they had the opportunity to play together at this level. It is truly something very special we can all remember with great pride.”
Connor Stewart’s basketball career at Liberty has come to a close, but Brent Stewart said Connor’s influence on the court helped Shane establish his own identity as the one of the Lions’ main options this past winter.
“I feel that myself and the other seniors in my class really came in and set a high standard for how you play and how much effort you put in,” Connor Stewart said. “I feel I’ve left a pretty big mark in the sense that you never stop working and you always give your best effort.
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“Our class went out winning the first regional title at the school and it puts a cap on it. We helped Liberty establish itself as one of the top programs in the county.”