Evan Ambrose, Stevenson muscle up against Zion-Benton
Nine inches shorter with less muscle and a whole lot less facial hair, Stevenson guard Evan Ambrose did all he could to body up against fellow sophomore Amar Augillard of Zion-Benton.
Augillard is not your average 16-year-old, mind you. He's 6 feet 5 with a full beard and broad shoulders.
"It's hard to believe we're the same age," joked Ambrose, who's played AAU ball with Augillard. "He's had that (physique) since eighth grade. ... He's a great competitor."
Ambrose is not your average 16-year-old either. He's an "old" sophomore, having turned 16 in August. His boyish looks suggest he's in junior high.
"Yeah, I'm a little bit behind my years, facially," Ambrose said with a laugh.
He's also tougher than he looks.
He demonstrated that again on Friday night, playing scrappy defense coming off the bench and helping host Stevenson hold off Zion-Benton 57-51 in the first game of a North Suburban Conference boys/girls doubleheader.
Matt Ambrose, Evan's big brother, scored 15 points on five 3-pointers to pace the Patriots, who improved to 17-3 and 7-1 in the NSC with their eighth win in a row. John Ittounas (13 points) and Matt Kaznikov (12) also scored in double figures for Stevenson, and R.J. Holmes had 7 points and 8 rebounds.
Augillard scored 19 points, knocking down three of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep Zion-Benton (9-10, 3-5) close to the end.
Evan Ambrose had only 4 points (4 of 4 from the stripe) but was disruptive on the defensive end. That's something he's displayed since his dad, coach Pat Ambrose, promoted him to varsity in early December.
"His pain tolerance is really high," Pat Ambrose said. "(Laughing) It's not me, and it's not Matthew.
"That's (Evan's) calling card -- his toughness."
When you're 5-8, it has to be part of your makeup.
"I can't be in there without putting my nose in there," Evan Ambrose said. "That's what I hang my hat on."
The toughness is something Pat Ambrose observed when Evan was in grade school. His appendix burst, but he never complained about the pain.
"It was misdiagnosed (originally)," Pat Ambrose said. "All the nurses said he is very, very tough."
Augillard says the same thing about his old AAU teammate. The Z-B star respects Ambrose's game, too.
"He's a great guard," Augillard said. "He gets his team the ball, and he takes shots when he needs to."
Cameron Bernard came off the bench to hit a big shot for Stevenson, draining a left-corner 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to extend the Patriots' lead to 34-26. Zion-Benton trimmed a 39-28 deficit to 39-36, but Evan Ambrose's 2 free throws in the closing seconds of the third had the home team up 44-38.
Stevenson never gave up the lead, as Ittounas hit 6 of 8 foul shots in the fourth. The Patriots had won at Zion 59-38 on Dec. 7.
"They definitely had a better scouting report on us," Evan Ambrose said. "Having only one day to prepare was hectic, and we didn't have probably the length of shootaround that we wanted because it was a 5:30 (p.m.) game, but they're a great team and they'll get after you. That gave us some problems tonight."
Julian Ramirez added 13 points and 9 rebounds for the Zee-Bees.
"We played a lot harder than last time," Augillard said. "We made a lot of mistakes during that game, but we responded well this game."