Stevenson gets by Palatine, will play York for Molitor title
Stevenson's boys basketball team came out of its tryptophan coma to hold off Palatine 51-44 Friday at the Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Classic at Palatine.
"The first couple minutes were good, but we struggled after that," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "We looked a little post-Thanksgiving like we ate too much turkey. It was like we were sleeping. We came back after that and hit some open shots."
Stevenson built an early lead and then had to hold off a rally by Palatine to advance to the tournament title game against York at 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
The Patriots (3-0) made Palatine look like it had too much turkey as well as they roared to a 10-2 advantage. Stevenson continued to play well as the Patriots led 17-9 after one quarter.
Palatine (1-2) then began to blanket the Patriots, putting Stevenson's shooters to sleep. The Pirates chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 20-19 on a 3-pointer by Connor Aikman with 2:10 left in the first half.
With the score at 20-19 at the break, the Patriots picked up a pair of baskets and a 3-pointer from John Ittounas as they opened up a 30-25 lead with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
Palatine, which has been down in each of its first three games, found a way back again.
A 3-pointer by Josh Rivera and pair of free throws by Erik Pecson tied the game at 30. Stevenson's Matthew Kaznikov put the Patriots back on top with a pair of free throws to make it 32-30.
Julian Campbell, the Pirates' 6-foot-7 wide body, fought his way inside for a basket and three-point play that put Palatine up 33-32 with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for Palatine, that's when Stevenson woke from its nap. Matt Ambrose canned a 3-pointer and Ittounas followed with another trey while Jacob Tenner added a basket and the Patriots forged a 40-33 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"We had a ton of energy in the first couple minutes," said Matt Ambrose, who finished with 10 points. "We have 'Stevenson' across our chest and everyone is coming after us. Those shots are the kind we work on in practice and those are the ones we live for."
It was 46-40 with under two minutes to play when Stevenson was able to pull away.
The Patriots were holding the ball when Kaznikov found himself alone in the corner. The senior drilled a 3 and Evan Ambrose was fouled under the basket after the shot. Evan Ambrose converted both free throws for a rare 5-point possession as the Patriots opened up a 51-40 advantage with 29 seconds to play.
"I bring the energy to the team," said Evan Ambrose, who finished with 9 points. "I like to get after people and really dig in defensively."
Ittounas led Stevenson with 15 points while Kaznikov had 8 points and 7 rebounds.
Campbell led Palatine with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Luke Seiffert chipped in 6 points while Pecson had 4 points.
"I thought we had a great effort," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "Against a team like that you have to have a great effort to give yourself a chance."