Jack Ambrose, Batavia top St. Charles North

Things have never been easy for Batavia forward Jack Ambrose.

He had to grind his way through the freshman and sophomore B teams before earning a bench role on varsity as a junior and becoming a key contributor as a senior.

There were moments early on in his career when leaving the game behind entered his mind.

“I definitely thought about it a few times,” Ambrose said. “I just stayed resilient, stayed passionate for the game. I love this game. I play every day. I just love it.”

Batavia's C.J. Valente (40) and Jack Ambrose (14) surround St. Charles North's Colin Ross (24) during a DuKane Conference game in Batavia on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

All those hours working and sticking with the game paid off Wednesday for Ambrose in the host Bulldogs’ 50-47 DuKane Conference victory over St. Charles North in overtime.

Ambrose made three 3-pointers in the second half for Batavia (6-11, 2-5). Two of the shots tied the game. The third, coming with 5 seconds left in OT, clinched the win.

“When I got my moment to shine, I stepped forward,” Ambrose said. “I missed some shots at the beginning, got into foul trouble.

“In the second half, I tried to hit those shots the rest of the way.”

St. Charles North (2-13, 0-7) forced a 47-47 tie on Jake Furtney’s layup with 2:09 left in OT. Neither team scored again until the Bulldogs held the ball on the final possession.

JP Chaney found an open Ambrose on the wing and he let it fly, hitting the game-winner. A shot by the North Stars at the buzzer then came up short.

Batavia's Jack Ambrose (14) and St. Charles North's Parker Reinke (12) go after a rebound during a DuKane Conference game in Batavia on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

“We didn’t have a play designed,” Ambrose said. “They kicked it to JP. My guy pushed over to JP and I was open, so I just took it.”

Batavia coach Jim Nazos had no problem with Ambrose, a Wisconsin-Oshkosh recruit, taking the shot in that moment.

“He’ll be the first to say that there were some games where they just weren’t falling for him,” Nazos said. “What really helped him was getting to the free-throw line, and every shot after that looked good.”

Nazos knows Ambrose has the skills to be an important player for the Bulldogs.

Ambrose’s college commitment is a testament to that fact. Due to his lack of varsity experience, however, he’s still figuring out crucial moments.

St. Charles North's Daniel Connolly (10) tries to slip past Batavia's Jacob Aseltine (2) on a drive to the basket during a DuKane Conference game in Batavia on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

“I think he’s learning to play under control and with composure,” Nazos said. “I think one of the hardest things is figuring out when to go and when not to go.

“He barely played last year, freshman B, sophomore B. He just kept working and getting better. Some of the last things to come are decisions like that.”

Batavia took a 30-20 lead with 6:01 in the third quarter. St. Charles North didn’t let the Bulldogs continue to pull away, however.

The North Stars took a 33-30 lead with a 13-0 run. Colin Ross scored five points and Parker Reinke hit a 3-pointer in that spurt.

“We crawled back,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. “I asked them, ‘Was this a regional game? No. We have a tomorrow.’ By the time this season ends and regionals begin, we’re going to be competitive.

“I wouldn’t want to play us in the regional semi. I’m very proud of the guys.”

Batavia's Jack Ambrose (14) looks to pass against St. Charles North during a DuKane Conference game in Batavia on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

Reinke led all scorers for St. Charles North with 13 points.

Ambrose and Nate Nazos each scored 11 to pace Batavia. All of Nazos’ points came in the first half, while all of Ambrose’s points came in the second half.

Jim Nazos has seen his team play several games this season that went down to the wire, only to not go his team’s way.

“We got good looks,” Nazos said. “We got continuous stops. I don’t think we blew a defensive assignment. They had to make tough shots if we did. I think we got better.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

Source link