Stevenson edges Lake Zurich in OT for Benson's first conference win
One of the big off-season area headlines in boys basketball was the move of Will Benson from Huntley after a successful nine-season stint to Stevenson where he succeeds Pat Ambrose.
Ambrose announced his retirement last spring culminating a stellar 24-season run helming the Patriots hoops program. The Patriots won over 500 games highlighted by the winning the 2015 Class 4A state championship.
Benson previously inherited a Huntley program in the summer of 2014 from Marty Manning when he left to take the Schaumburg program.
"It is challenging (coaching) the first time through the (conference)," Benson said after his squad had beaten Lake Zurich 72-64 in overtime at the SHS Sports Center Wednesday night to earn his first North Suburban Conference victory.
"I'm still trying to learn. I know some of the coaches as people. I don't know a lot of the athletes obviously. You see them live, you see them on film."
Wednesday night he saw Stevenson (4-2, 1-0) rally from a 14-point deficit (30-16) in the midway point of the second quarter. They pulled within 34-25 at the break thanks to two of senior forward Jack Dabbs' 13 points just before the horn sounded.
With the Bears up 39-31 after a three-point play by senior guard Ryan Carroll at the 5:46 mark of the third, the home team went on a 17-8 run topped by an inside basket from Patriots junior Aiden Bardic (16 points, 6 assists) that put them ahead at 48-47 early in the fourth.
That set up a back-and-forth duel that encompassed the remainder of regulation. It included five lead changes with the final one coming from sophomore guard Rocco Pagliocca's steal, drive, and layup that gave them a 58-57 lead with just 78 ticks left in regulation.
After Pagliocca's ninth point came from the charity stripe to make it a 59-57 Stevenson advantage with 20 seconds left, Lake Zurich (4-3, 1-1) would even the score at 59 with an inside pass from Kain Kretschmar to 6-8 junior Anton Streinikov with: 01 left to force a fifth period.
From that point it would be the hosts taking control thanks to a 9-1 tear over the first three minutes of the extra session featuring an Atticus Richmond (game-high 18 points) putback that left the Patriots safely ahead 68-61 with a minute remaining.
Richmond, a junior transfer from Berkshire Prep in Massachusetts, credited his team successfully regrouping at halftime for their comeback.
"We all just came together and decided to turn the game around. Playing together. Moving the ball around. We really locked in on defense. That was the biggest thing."
Senior guard Armand Burris added 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals to the Patriots' winning effort. Senior swingman Nick Popovic joined Kretschmar with 17 points each for the Bears followed by Streinikov's 15 and 6 boards.