Ray Shovlain, the coach, simply savored the win.
Ray Shovlain, the teacher, found a valuable teaching point after his St. Ambrose men’s basketball team held on for a 97-95 victory over Robert Morris (Ill.) on Wednesday night at Lee Lohman Arena.
"If that shot goes down, we’re talking a different story," Shovlain said after the Fighting Bees won for the fourth time in their last five games but not before nearly letting a six-point lead with four-tenths of a second remaining slip away in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game.
The Eagles’ Johnny Fox missed a 3-point attempt from the left wing at the buzzer after Robert Morris had hit four free throws with a fraction of a second left on the clock to shave into what had been a seemingly safe 97-91 lead.
St. Ambrose freshman Dylan Kaczmarek was called for a foul after Chelby Frazier had grabbed a rebound following a block by John Kerr. His choice of words that followed after the whistle led to a technical being called.
Frazier knocked down all four free throws, but Fox missed on a decent look after the inbounds to allow the Fighting Bees to escape with a hard-fought victory.
"It isn’t over until it’s over, and our guys need to do a better job of understanding that," Shovlain said. "We worked hard to put ourselves in a position to win this game. I don’t even want to think about what it would have been like to give it away."
That didn’t happen in part because of the perseverance St. Ambrose showed in the second half, shooting 58.1 percent from the field to withstand a challenge from the Eagles.
The Fighting Bees led 47-42 at halftime, but trailed 76-70 after Jarvae Tate scored two of his team-leading 21 points on a lay-in with 7 minutes, 27 seconds remaining.
St. Ambrose scored the next nine points, regaining a 77-76 lead on a basket by Kerr with 5:40 to play.
Blake Buls, scoring all but three of his 19 points in the second half, had six points during a stretch that included critical 3-point baskets by the Bees’ Tyler Hilby and Lee Hardrick over the next three minutes.
Kerr, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, knocked down his only 3 of the game with 58 seconds to play after Tate had pulled the Eagles (6-11, 6-4 CCAC) within 91-90.
"We hit some big baskets when we needed it to get ourselves back into the lead," Buls said. "At that point, we kept our composure, kept fighting and just kept playing. We gave ourselves a chance because everybody stepped up when we needed it most. It’s a big win for us."
Jalen Jones led five St. Ambrose players in double figures with a 21-point game that he complemented with nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks for the Bees (9-8, 4-5).
"This keeps us moving forward, fourth win in five games, protecting home court," Buls said. "It took a team effort, and we got it done."
St. Ambrose played Wednesday without its season-long scoring leader, Jake Meeske. The sophomore from United Township and freshman forward Michael Williams both missed the game because of illness.