Feel-good victory for Stevenson over Benet
It didn't end well for Stevenson guard Evan Ambrose, who headed to the ER after Saturday night's nonconference game against Benet Academy, likely needing to have his mouth stitched up after getting inadvertently whacked late in the fourth quarter.
He and his teammates suffered a different kind of pain against Benet last season.
Guard John Ittounas remembers the Patriots saw their 14-game winning streak snapped.
"I remember it was tough to get shots," Ittounas said. "We couldn't really move the ball. We focused this year on our defensive side but also just playing our own game on offense, and we were able to get good shots."
Stevenson -- Ambrose too -- felt better after the 2020 showdown, as Stevenson beat visiting Benet 51-35 in Lincolnshire. Matt Kaznikov scored a game-high 13 points (three 3-pointers) to lead the Patriots, who never trailed in improving to 24-4.
Unlike last year, they saw their winning streak extend. Stevenson has won eight straight heading into its regular-season finale at home against Lake Forest on Wednesday night, when the Patriots can capture the North Suburban Conference championship outright.
Benet, which was led by Sam Hennessy's 9 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the arc, fell to 21-9.
"We struggled," Redwings coach Gene Heidkamp said. "I give a lot of credit to Stevenson. They played great defense. We didn't make shots from the field, and we didn't make free throws. It was really a poor game all around for us."
Benet, which trailed by double digits nearly the entire second half, shot 12 of 32 from the floor and missed 11 free throws (6 of 17).
"We didn't play well defensively or offensively," Heidkamp said. "But they're a good, veteran team with a lot of parts that play well together, and they exposed us. If you're not going to play well against a team like that, you're going to struggle."
The annual battle pits two teams with similar styles and history. The Redwings played in the Class 4A state championship game in 2014 and 2016, sandwiching Stevenson's state title in 2015.
"We don't chuck up shots, we don't score in the 80s, and we generally play defense and are patient on offense," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said in comparing the two programs. "We just got some open looks tonight and made more shots in the second half."
Matthew Ambrose (11 points, 3 of 4 from three-point range) and Ittounas (10 points, 6 rebounds) also scored in double figures for the Patriots. Ittounas went to the foul line three times down the stretch to shoot a one-and-one and went 6 of 6. R.J. Holmes had 5 points and 9 rebounds. The Patriots' eight 3s included one apiece by backups Adam Wess and Ankith Ramasani in the game's final minute.
Tyler Van Eekeren had 8 points for Benet, which also got 3s from Colin Gillespie and Luke Nolan. Matt Reid hustled for 7 rebounds.
"A good, strong suburban team that plays similar to us," Ittounas said. "They play a good, pack defense so we get to play against a different type of defense and expose ourselves to something new and get ready for the playoffs."