No letdown for Stevenson against Libertyville
Athletic enough to routinely rattle rims with one-handed dunks, Stevenson senior post player R.J. Holmes takes full advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame and ability to soar.
"I'm just long," Holmes said. "I like to use my athleticism. Coach usually likes to utilize my length, especially on longer players, helping off, blocking shots and getting deflections."
Holmes did all of that against host Libertyville on Tuesday, as Stevenson avoided a long night, so to speak, considering the Patriots were coming off a first-place-showdown win over Mundelein and had beaten the Wildcats by 26 points in the teams' first meeting this season.
"We focused in," coach Pat Ambrose said after his Patriots won 59-50 to improve to 13-3 and 5-0 in the North Suburban Conference. "We had one day of practice and we had a good practice [Monday]. If you want to win in this conference, you got to win on the road and you got to win against tough teams, and Libertyville is a tough team."
As he did against Mundelein, Holmes posted a double-double. He had 10 points (1 dunk) and 11 rebounds, as well as 3 blocked shots. His 7 boards in the opening quarter helped the visitors build a 19-7 lead.
"We talk all the time about not being complacent," Holmes said. "We have a lot of talent, and it's easy to be complacent, especially after we get big wins like we did against Mundelein. But Coach talked before the game about how championships are won on the second day."
Playing without Blake Ellingson in its 70-44 loss on Dec. 10, Libertyville (10-5, 1-2) had its junior starting guard back but never could recover from its big deficit in the first half.
The Wildcats had gotten within 37-33 late in the third quarter and trailed only 51-45 after Marc Michelotti hit 3 free throws with 1:32 to go in the fourth. But Stevenson hit 8 of 8 free throws down the stretch to secure its win.
"A better showing," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "They're a very good basketball team. They rarely beat themselves. They're very smart, and Pat always has them well-prepared."
John Ittounas led the Patriots with a game-high 18 points and 6 rebounds. He also had 18 points against Mundelein, which marked the senior's season high. His performances have not surprised his coach.
"Johnny, Johnny, Johnny," Ambrose. "Johnny Buckets, Johnny Steady."
With Patrick Graham sitting most of the first half with 2 fouls, and Will Moore injuring his ankle in the second half, 6-foot-5 sophomore Chase Bonder stepped up for Libertyville. Bonder's back-to-back 3-pointers late in the opening half helped the Wildcats cut into a 13-point deficit. He finished with 13 points (three 3-pointers) and 7 rebounds.
Jackson Watson (13 points, two 3s) and Ellingson (10) also scored in double figures for Libertyville, while Graham finished with 9 points.
"In the second half, we relied a lot on Chase Bonder," Zyrkowski said. "Tonight I thought we showed a lot of improvement from the last time we played [Stevenson]. At one point, we were a really young team out there. I told the guys in [the locker room], 'I'll go to battle with you every single night if you give an effort like this.' There are things that we have to be smarter about. That's the challenge."
Matt Kaznikov also scored 10 points for Stevenson, and Andrew Chieng provided a lift coming off the bench with a pair of 3-pointers.