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The mantra ‘defense wins championships’ was never more evident than on Friday night at Schuamburg.
The host Saxons locked down defensively and controlled the second half of play versus Mid-Suburban West rival Palatine to win the game 48-36, locking up the Mid-Suburban West title in the process. The Pirates shot just 2-of-16 from the field in the second half, as Schaumburg closed off driving lanes and really took Palatine’s scorers out of the game.
“I thought we played great defensively, especially in the second half. You know, that’s what we pride ourselves on most,” Saxons coach Matt Walsh said. “We have really good players who believe in one another, who play for one another. We had such a great defensive effort.”
The Saxons (16-9, 8-2) really honed in on Palatine guard Roosevelt Smart, who had 11 points in the first quarter but just five more the remainder of the game. Smart left the game with 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter after hitting the back of his head on the floor diving for a loose ball. He exited the gym in street clothes before the final buzzer; Palatine assistants said he was taken to the hospital for stitches, but were confident Smart did not suffer a concussion.
Schaumburg stuck guard Cole Reyes on Smart, and the senior forced tough jumpshots and contested drives to the basket. That led to an advantage on the boards for the Saxons, allowing the team to set up their patient but efficient offense. Kyle Bolger took full advantage, as the Schaumburg guard had 16 points, helping his team pull away in the game’s final 16 minutes after being up just five at halftime.
“We came out wanted to start it on the defensive end, because that’s where we always start things,” Bolger said. “Our defense is what leads us to good offense. We really executed well tonight.”
The victory over Palatine (15-12, 6-4) meant a lot to Bolger and the team’s other seniors, who were playing their final home game. However, the conference title meant even more.
“It means everything,” Bolger said, when asked what the championship signifies to him. “That’s what we’ve been working for all season. At the beginning of the season we started off kind of low, not really where we want to be. But we picked it up and have come on strong at the end.”
Jimmy Lundquist added 13 points and six rebounds for the Saxons.