More good news for Mundelein
Familiar with double-digit deficits against Stevenson, Mundelein's boys basketball team didn't get another "Oh, no" feeling this time.
That's because, oh, yes, these Mustangs are not your old Mustangs.
"We haven't had much success these past few years, but it's a different season this year," said senior forward Jeff Bikus, who's been a varsity starter since he was a sophomore. "I don't think any of us really knew how long it had been since we beat (Stevenson), but we prepared all week. We came into this game expecting to win."
And -- after 11 straight losses to the Patriots dating back to 2012 -- the Mustangs did win.
Bikus scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, freshman point guard Conor Enright had 10 of his 15 points after halftime, and Mundelein rallied from 14 points down in the second quarter to capture a 69-64 decision in Lincolnshire on Friday night.
Mundelein, which already has more wins than it did all last season, improved to 6-2 and 2-0 in the North Suburban Conference, while handing Stevenson (5-1, 1-1) its first loss. The last time the Mustangs beat the Patriots was on Feb. 17, 2012 (Jalen Brunson's freshman season).
"The credit tonight goes to Mundelein," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "They were more energized, they hit shots, they moved the ball, and we couldn't stop them."
Mundelein couldn't stop Ambrose's son. Sophomore guard Matt Ambrose, the Patriots' 6-foot-2 varsity rookie, poured in a season-high 27 points, while senior teammate Jackson Qualley added 20 (three 3-pointers).
Ambrose shot 10 of 15 from the floor, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
"Credit my teammates. They got me open," Matt Ambrose said. "Shots were falling tonight. But not enough to win."
When 6-foot-7 Nick Bonk scored in the post to hike Stevenson's lead to 26-12 with 4:41 to go in the first half, it looked like the Patriots might win easily. But Bikus drained his second 3-pointer of the quarter and then made 2 free throws. The comeback was on, and the visitors were within 30-23 at halftime.
"We just reiterated exactly what we wanted to do, and we recognized it," Mundelein first-year coach Matt Badgley said. "(Stevenson), they're such good three-point shooters and such good shooters in general. We just reminded our kids that they're going to make shots, even when we defend them well."
"We thought the second quarter really hurt us," Pat Ambrose said. "We couldn't get stops and couldn't do the right things."
Mundelein threatened to take control of the game in the third quarter, but the coach's kid wouldn't permit it. Ambrose went 5 of 5 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers. He kept going in the fourth, hitting a turnaround bucket in the lane to tie the score at 45-45 with 7:01 to go.
But Bikus muscled inside to put Mundelein in front, then finished a pass from Enright. Another Ambrose 3 got the Patriots within 49-48, only to see Bikus answer with a pair of free throws, before sinking a 3 off another dish from Enright.
"I just got to credit my teammates," Bikus said. "Conor, the freshman, that kid can play. Whenever he's on the court, I'm a better player. Tommy (Marcotte), James (Willman), (Andrew) Silva, Kyle (Enright), all of them -- I couldn't ask for better teammates this year. It's all clicking. We needed this one."
Mustangs 6-7 freshman Scottie Ebube punctuated the win with a two-handed jam in the final seconds. Willman (11 points) hit 2 clutch free throws in the final minute. The 6-8 Silva finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
"They're a good team over there," Matt Ambrose said. "They're improving and getting a lot better."