Stevenson eases past Hersey
Many of the Stevenson boys basketball players remember last year very well.
That's when the Patriots were the top seed only to lose in the regional finals to Fremd.
On Friday evening, Stevenson redeemed itself by holding off a pesky ninth-seeded Hersey team, 56-44, for the title at the Class 4A Lake Forest regional.
Stevenson moves on to play Deerfield, which defeated Mundelein for the Wheeling regional title, on Tuesday at the Waukegan sectional at 7 p.m.
"We've been thinking about that (loss) for a long time," said Pats coach Pat Ambrose, whose team improved to 25-5. "Tonight was all about balance on offense and our defense."
Stevenson set the tone early, jumping to a 12-3 lead after the first quarter. Junior guard John Ittounas and junior forward Robert Holmes got things going in the first, chipping in 4 points apiece. Ittounas led all scorers on the evening with 15 points.
"I was called up at the end of the season last year and remember when we lost (to Fremd). So it feels great to get this regional," said Ittounas. "Our guard play and defense were excellent tonight. We had great energy."
The Stevenson defense held the Huskies to just 1 field goal on 1-for-8 shooting in the first quarter.
Hersey, which finished 15-16, did hang around in the second, outscoring the Pats 13-11 to trail 23-16 at the break.
Senior forwards Rocco Ronzio and Ryan Verhulst hit 3-pointers, as did Jace Coffaro.
But Stevenson came out swinging once again in the third when senior guard Luke Chieng drilled a 3-pointer to up the lead to 26-16 right off the bat.
Hersey played the Pats tough all throughout but couldn't sustain any momentum.
"The big difference was we didn't get enough loose balls and rebounds," said Huskies coach Austin Scott. "But I was really proud of how we fought hard and how we conducted ourselves."
The Pats' biggest lead in the third was 42-29 after a trey by junior guard Matt Ambrose (10 points.
Ambrose scored 6 points in the frame, as did junior forward Matt Kaznikov.
"We talk a lot about being in the right spots to take charges and defensively not to give up any easy baskets," said Kaznikov, who chipped in 9 points.
Then, Ittounas got hot in the fourth, scoring 8 of his game-high 16 points.
The closest Hersey would get was 47-38 after a layup by senior guard Matt Hanushewsky (6 points) with 4:22 left in regulation.
"They (Hersey) played tough," added Pat Ambrose. "It was a battle for everything we got."