Ambrose School ready for state tournament debut

Height and speed help contribute to the fast-paced Archers’ success this year.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comMarch 5, 2014 

MERIDIAN — If Ken Hosier needed reassurance his team is ready for its first trip to the state tournament in school history, he got it Tuesday afternoon during five-on-five drills.

Point guard Jaxon Hughes called out a play, drove to his left and pulled up for a 3-pointer as his defender lost his footing.

On the next play, Hughes’ defender dropped back in anticipation of a pass, leaving Hughes enough room to drain another 3.

Having burned his man twice already, Hughes’ next move was a classic.

The 5-foot-4 freshman faked a shot and lobbed the ball inside to 6-foot-7 sophomore Travis Yenor, who turned and hit a fadeaway jumper in the key.

The Ambrose School boys basketball team has been able to score points in a hurry all season, leading to an appearance in the 1A Division II state tournament, which starts Thursday at Caldwell High. The Archers (19-3) make their debut against Dietrich (20-3) at 3 p.m.

Ambrose — a Christian-based school in Meridian — opened in 1993 and moved to its current location at the corner of Chinden and Locust Grove in 2009.

The team did not have its own gym until 2010 and became a full-fledged member of the Idaho High School Activities Association last school year.

This is only the second season that the team has been eligible to qualify for the state tournament.

It is because of players like Hughes and Yenor — whom Hosier says “crash the books as hard as they crash the boards” — that the Archers have gone from playing in Christian leagues for fun to competing for a state title.

“My first year coaching we had eight guys, and then we had seven the next two years and that’s it. We’ve been building the program ever since,” said Hosier, who is in his ninth season with the Archers.

Yenor missed 10 games this season with a concussion and now wears a black protective helmet during games, but he leads the team in points (23.8), rebounds (8.8), steals (3.6) and assists (3.3) per game.

“We are definitely fortunate to have Travis with us at the school still. We’re lucky that he hasn’t left and gone into a 5A school,” Ambrose sophomore guard Reagan Good said. “Anyone would love to have him on their team.”

Hughes chips in with 10 points and two assists per game, and despite his size, teammates say he is one of the toughest players on the team.

“He is the toughest guy for me to guard on the team because he is so fast and he’s so smart with the ball,” Yenor said. “It’s a challenge to guard him.”

Opponents have found the Archers’ style of play equally challenging.

Hosier implemented an aggressive, halfcourt man defense this season, creating lots of turnovers and a fast pace many teams have trouble keeping up with.

“There’s a lot of times where we can extend a five-point lead to a 25-point lead in three minutes,” Yenor said.

Added Good: “We often suffocate whatever offense we are playing. Our goal is to get into their face and frustrate them and make them cough up the ball.”

The Archers will lean on their defense to get them through the unknown at state this season, but hope to make many more trips in the coming years with a starting lineup that includes one senior, three sophomores and a freshman.

“We always talk about letting our defense dictate our offense,” Hosier said. “... I joke with the guys that I want to know the flavor of their opponent’s gum, which is obviously a movie line, but it’s true. I want them that intense to where they can tell me, ‘Yeah, he’s chewing spearmint.’ ”

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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