Stevenson's Ambrose nets 400th career win

 
 
Updated 11/28/2018 10:28 PM
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  • Stevenson head coach Pat Ambrose talks to his players during their game against Hersey Palatine last week.

      Stevenson head coach Pat Ambrose talks to his players during their game against Hersey Palatine last week. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

The bearded Pat Ambrose picked up win No. 4 Wednesday night.

The clean-shaven Pat Ambrose won 396 games.

It added up to a special evening at Stevenson, where the host Patriots, led by 6-foot-5 junior R.J. Holmes' season-high 14 points, including a pair of highlight-reel dunks, beat Crystal Lake Central 56-39 in a nonconference game.

"If we start losing, I'll go back (to shaving)," Ambrose joked after his Patriots improved to 4-1.

After the game, Stevenson presented Ambrose, who's in his 20th season as head coach, a banner commemorating his 400th career win. His players then took turns autographing a souvenir basketball for him.

"It's just nice to see your coach have so much success," said Holmes, who was one of three Patriots in double figures. "It's nice to know you have that person behind you. ... I've learned a lot him about defense and how to be a talker and a leader."

Ambrose, who coached Stevenson to the Class 4A state championship in 2015 and also had runner-up (2013), third-place (2014) and fourth-place (2007) finishes at state, wanted to talk about anyone but himself. Among the first people he wanted to thank were Dallas Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson (Stevenson won 108 games with the four-year starter) and Stevenson's loyal assistant coaches.

"I think mostly of people like Paul Swan, people like John Taylor and J.J. Pearl," Ambrose said. "A lot of these assistants have done so much for the program. And certainly I think of my high school coach, (the late) Dick Whitaker (at Naperville North)."

Maybe the only bittersweet thing about Ambrose's milestone win was that his oldest son Matt couldn't contribute on the court. The junior guard broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand in Saturday's tournament finale against host Palatine. Ambrose, who scored 43 points in Stevenson's first three games, got injured early in the opening quarter when his hand hit another player. He is scheduled for surgery Thursday and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

"It's an unfortunate break, literally and figuratively," Pat Ambrose said. "It's unfortunate because, in a lot of ways, Matt is the heart and soul of our team."

Stevenson never trailed against Crystal Lake Central (1-4), jumping out to a 16-8 lead after one quarter. The Tigers got within 28-22 by halftime, but Cameron Bernard (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Matt Kaznikov (10 points) sank 3-pointers in the third, helping Stevenson extend its lead to 42-27 entering the fourth.

Holmes scored 8 points, including his second one-handed dunk of the game, in the fourth.

"R.J. Holmes has a little lift, no doubt about it," said Pat Ambrose, smiling.

Point guard Luke Chieng scored 9 of his 13 points in the opening half for Stevenson. He's been in the program for four years and was another one who enjoyed being a part of his coach's special night.

"It's just really cool to experience this," Chieng said. "(Coach Ambrose) has really showed me how to play the game the right way and how to be in control on the court. He's the one who taught me how to be the point guard I am now. He's been a role model for me on and off the court."

Alex Timmerman, a 6-foot-9 senior and Bucknell commit, scored a game-high 20 points to lead Crystal Lake Central.

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