Keep calling Stevenson undefeated
Stevenson's basketball team has lots of weapons, including a veteran guy who has lots of nicknames.
"I'm 'Kaz,' Kazzy,' 'Russian Bear,' " said senior forward Matt Kaznikov, a starter on the Patriots' sectional-championship squad last season. "(Teammate Matthew Ambrose) gets 'Matthew. I get all the other little nicknames."
Call Kaznikov and his teammates undefeated -- still.
The Patriots started hot and never trailed Friday night in beating visiting Zion-Benton 57-44 to improve to 7-0 and 2-0 in the North Suburban Conference. Evan Ambrose, Matthew Ambrose and Kaznikov each hit 3-pointers in helping Stevenson build a 9-3 lead less than three minutes into the game.
"They put us on our heels right away, and we didn't recover until halftime," said coach Bob Worthington, whose Zee-Bees fell to 4-3 and 1-1 in the NSC. "Give them credit. It was a good game. North Suburban, I love it. I look forward to seeing them at The Hive (on Feb. 1)."
Stevenson has featured a balanced scoring attack all season and did again against the Zee-Bees. R.J. Holmes (7 rebounds) and Evan Ambrose each scored 14 points, while Kaznikov and Matthew Ambrose each had 11. John Ittounas contributed 7 points. The Patriots got a pair of 3-pointers each from Kaznikov and the Ambrose brothers, as well as one from Ittounas in shooting 7 of 13 from the arc in the first half. The home team led 15-9 after one quarter and extended the advantage to 28-14 by halftime.
"The start was very critical because we knew they were going to come out eventually with their press," said the 6-foot-4 Kaznikov, who also had 6 rebounds and took a first-half charge. "We know our defense is what gets us going, but knocking those three 3s early was a key for us to start strong."
"I wasn't mad with our guys," Worthington said of Stevenson's early 3-pointers. "The 3s were really, really deep, and they were really, really contested. What do you want?"
Zion-Benton came out of the locker room after halftime and picked it up at both ends of the court. Amar Augillard, who missed all 7 of his shots in the opening half, scored 6 points in the third, and the Zee-Bees got 3-pointers from Damontae Taylor, Kent Shepard and Floyd Bailey in outscoring the Patriots 24-16.
The Zee-Bees closed the quarter with a 6-0 run to pull within 44-38.
"They came out and pressed a little bit, and we took some quick shots," Patriots coach Pat Ambrose said. "When we're making it, we're probably just trading baskets with them, but we don't want to trade baskets with them. We just didn't play as well in the third quarter."
A baseline drive by Matthew Ambrose and pair of free throws by Kaznikov one minute into the fourth got the Stevenson lead back to double digits, and the Zee-Bees never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Augillard, who had a thunderous fourth-quarter dunk, finished with 10 points, as did teammates Taylor and Bailey.
Stevenson plays again Saturday when it tips off against Oak Park at 5:15 p.m. in the Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel.
"We got a lot of chemistry going," Kaznikov said. "We just want to keep getting wins and keep getting experience."