Stevenson battles back to beat Zion-Benton
Stevenson junior guard Evan Ambrose swears that the only two free throws he missed during Saturday's North Suburban Conference boys basketball clash at Zion-Benton were not missed on purpose. But the result was very purposeful for the Patriots.
Trailing most of the night and by as many as 16 points in the second half, Stevenson battled back thanks to a huge 21-3 run in the fourth quarter to knock off Zion-Benton 61-51.
The win keeps Stevenson in a first-place tie with Mundelein at 8-1 in league play while the Pats' overall mark improved to 17-4.
"Evan is a pretty good free throw shooter so I know he wasn't trying to miss those," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "Give a lot of credit to Zion. They came off a loss (to Libertyville) Wednesday night just like we did and they really got after us."
The key stretch for Stevenson came midway through the final quarter. Evan Ambrose missed the second of two only to have teammate Jacob Tenner hustle into the corner for the rebound. He sneaked a pass to Matt Kaznikov who subsequently found senior Matt Ambrose wide open for a long 3-pointer. The bucket was the first of the night for the elder of the two Ambrose brothers and brought the visitors to within 46-40 with 7:23 left.
Kaznikov was the scoring leader for Stevenson with 16 points, 12 coming in the second half.
"No, no, I didn't miss on purpose," Evan Ambrose said with a laugh. "Jacob Tenner. That boy does a lot that the media or casual fan doesn't see. But he means the world to this team."
The run continued for Stevenson and again the brothers Ambrose combination struck again. This time off another miss by Evan Ambrose, Tenner found Matt Ambrose for this second straight 3 and Stevenson was as close as it had been since the first quarter at 48-46.
"You could just see everyone start to relax after that shot," Evan Ambrose said. "You could see it just like the Evanston game last year. It's like a nice cold bath on a hot summer day."
Stevenson finally caught and passed the Zee-Bees on a pair of free throws by Evan Ambrose and a runner from the junior guard that gave the Patriots the lead for good at 50-48 with 2:45 to play. All this after Stevenson had trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half.
"(Evan) just brings that calming influence to our team," said Matt Ambrose, who joined his brother with 13 points -- all of his coming in the fourth quarter.
"I told Tenner, I hit the 3 but his rebound made the play. It was just those little things that we had to get back to in order to get back into the game. When we make plays like that we are tough to beat."
Zion-Benton (14-9, 4-4), which had won seven straight before losing Saturday and to Libertyville earlier in the week, started each half of the game fast. The Zee-Bees opened an 18-6 lead after one quarter, holding Stevenson scoreless for better than 6 minutes.
Zion then built up a 36-22 advantage to start the second half, only to see it wither away in the fourth quarter.
"We want to make you play how we want to make you play," Zion-Benton coach Bob Worthington said. "For the most part we got that done. We just had some late game decision making that we struggled with."
Zee-Bees junior Amar Augillard, who was honored before the game for scoring his 1,000th career point earlier this season, led all scorers with 20 points. Teammate Floyd Bailey chipped in with 19 before both fouled out late in the fourth quarter.