Healthy Ambrose resmbling old self for Stevenson
The final 6-8 weeks of the basketball season should be much better than the 6-8 weeks that led up to the season for Stevenson guard Matthew Ambrose.
Consider the stretch run under way for Ambrose, who's recently started playing more like the guy who was the best player on a sectional-championship team last year.
His 18-point effort in Stevenson's stunning 72-29 rout of visiting Warren on Saturday night came after he started the week by pouring in a season-high 22 points against West Aurora at Geneva's MLK Day of Hoops. The two games represent his best offensive performances of the season.
The reason? The shooter's right knee, finally, is feeling better.
"He's been coming back slowly but surely," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said of his son. "It's a bonus."
Last fall, the knee injury sidelined the Indianapolis-bound Ambrose for nearly two months.
No basketball activity.
"I do feel a lot better, just working with the trainers and getting my knee better, rehabbing," Ambrose said after shooting 6 of 8 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, in helping Stevenson improve to 16-3 and 7-0 in the North Suburban Conference, while handing Warren (7-12, 2-4) easily its worst loss of the season. "I feel like I'm getting close to my full potential."
Ambrose suffered what he called a dislocation of his patella.
"I couldn't walk for a while," he said. "It was actually really similar to [the injury of] Patrick Mahomes [during the NFL season]. But mine popped back in right away. I had a little cartilage tear in there, too, so it took a little longer to get [healthy]. But luckily no ACL or anything like that. And no surgery."
Ambrose has worn a brace on his knee all season and tweaked the injury in December, but he hasn't missed a game all season. While he's scored in double digits most games, his scoring average is down from the 14 ppg he averaged last season.
Despite that, Stevenson has continued to win. Matt Kaznikov scored a season-high 19 points (three 3-pointers) against Warren, and Evan Ambrose contributed 10 points.
"Luckily, I got some [great] teammates," Matthew Ambrose said. "Even if I didn't play my best game, Johnny (Ittounas) stepped up, (Jacob) Tenner stepped up, a bunch of different guys. You saw tonight, when we have everyone clicking, it's pretty hard to guard."
Stevenson, which ended the Hinsdale Central tournament over break with back-to-back losses, has won five games in a row, all in January.
"It's been a lot of little factors," Pat Ambrose said. "We've dialed in on defense a little bit. We've been able to practice some different things, different wrinkles. They're really smart kids so I can put in a different wrinkle just about every game."
Stevenson jumped on Warren early, leading 18-8 after one quarter and outscoring the Blue Devils 20-8 in the second quarter. The Patriots never let up and ended up shooting 70 percent from the floor (30 of 43).
"Guys were just not closing out," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said. "They were not helping each other. We didn't help the helper. All the things we work on in practice we just didn't do tonight."
Adnan Sarancic and Jason Langevin scored 7 points each for the Blue Devils.
"We were just not ready to play. I don't know why," Jasnoch said. "Stevenson played great, and we didn't execute, offensively or defensively.
"It was a team effort in badness."