After dropping six of its last seven games, the bottom line was the bottom line Wednesday night for the St. Ambrose men’s basketball.
"We needed a win. No matter how we got it, we needed a win," Fighting Bees junior John Kerr said.
St. Ambrose earned its 72-66 victory over St. Francis (Ill.) at Lee Lohman Arena, holding off a late charge by the Fighting Saints to win the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game.
Jake Meeske hit two free throws to break a 61-61 tie with 4 minutes, 25 seconds remaining that gave the Fighting Bees a lead they would not relinquish.
A 3-point basket by Dylan Kaczmarek and two free throws by Meeske extended the St. Ambrose lead to 68-61 with 3:01 remaining, and St. Francis came no closer than three points the rest of the way.
"The brought the kind of energy and showed the kind of fight that we needed," Kerr said. "The past two days, the players have gotten together and we talked about how we needed to turn this around. It’s on us to make that happen."
Kerr did his part, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and leading the Fighting Bees with four assists and three blocks in 33 minutes of action.
"That’s a real efficient line," coach Ray Shovlain said. "But, that’s what we need, guys doing their jobs and making every minute count."
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Collectively, it all added up.
St. Ambrose shot 57.4 percent for the game and out-rebounded St. Francis, 32-27.
"We needed to get after it on the boards," Kerr said. "We got beat on the boards (48-35 at Calumet St. Joseph) on Saturday and that shouldn’t be happening. That’s energy and effort. We brought that tonight."
Kerr was among four players who finished in double figures.
Meeske scored 10 of his team-leading 17 points during an opening half which saw Michael Williams collect all 10 of his points and Warren Allen come off the bench to score the first four of his 13 points.
All three contributed during a 10-0 run that helped St. Ambrose (12-8, 8-4 CCAC) build a 36-31 halftime advantage which grew to 53-42 midway through the second half.
"For the most part, we played a pretty consistent game but we took a couple of plays off, shot too quickly, didn’t rebound, and that allowed them to get back in it," Shovlain said.
The Fighting Saints (6-12, 4-8) rallied as Cole Micek found his touch and ultimately tied the game at 59-59 when he completed a four-point play with 6:04 remaining, part of a 14-point effort by the senior.
Kerr broke the deadlock at 59 with a pair of free throws before Meeske and Kaczmarek provided the answer when St. Francis tied the game one last time at 61.
"We had to step up and finish it off," Kerr said. "We had to find a way to get the win and we did."