Stevenson uses past to reach its future
Stevenson's Andy Stempel (21) makes a 3-pointer during a game against St. Viator in the Class 4A Waukegan Sectional Friday. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:32AM
WAUKEGAN — Stevenson’s boys basketball team is proving that understanding its past can help shape its future.
While advancing to their first state semifinal since 2007, the Patriots have been dominant. Stevenson is unbeaten in its first 18 games of 2013, with only two victories having come by a margin of fewer than 10 points. In their four regional and sectional games, the Patriots scored an average of 76 points and allowed an average of 60.
Stevenson beat Rockford Boylan 73-67 in the Class 4A DeKalb Supersectional Tuesday.
By comparison, in its march to the state semifinals six seasons ago, Stevenson was more methodical. In the two games of the sectional round that season, the Patriots scored an average of 45 points. In the supersectional round, the Patriots defeated Warren 58-54. In its state semifinal loss to O’Fallon, Stevenson managed just 51 points.
“These guys are better,” said assistant coach John Taylor, who was a point guard on that 2007 team. “We hung our hat defensively (in 2007). What we hang our hat on now is playing good offense as well as good defense. It’s no longer one end, it’s both ends.”
Taylor and volunteer coach Kevin Stineman — also a member of the 2007 team — are careful not to talk too often about the Patriots’ only state tournament team. The subject comes up organically, within the context of this season’s preparations.
“We know,” senior guard Andy Stempel said. “They were there, and they’ve been through it all and know how to get there. I think that’s why (Taylor) brings a lot of good things to practice.”
One of those good things is called the DeMatha Drill.
In the two-player drill, Taylor will bounce a ball off the backboard. Whoever doesn’t get the ball has to slap the other player and foul him just like in a game. The man with the ball must try and score. The loser’s punishment is running and push-ups.
The drill is designed to instill a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. More often than not this season, Stevenson has been the fittest.
“I definitely finish better. It’s important not to play soft,” said Stempel, who scored 15 points in the team’s 77-58 Waukegan Sectional final win over St. Viator Friday. “(The drill) brings strength and a tougher mindset.”
Sitting on a row of seats inside Waukegan’s gym Friday, coach Pat Ambrose was grabbing a few moments of solitude before the bus ride home. The Patriots’ coach in 2007, he is another link to the past and present.
Ambrose said it is important for this year’s team to be aware of previous successes. Having Taylor and Stineman coaching in the program instills a sense of pride in the present and a knowledge of how it relates to the past.
“It’s very important for us and the players to recognize that these are two guys that are giving back, they’ve been through the wars,” Ambrose said. “We had a good mixture of kids then, we have a real good mixture of kids this year. Every team is unique.”