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Close followers of the Schaumburg boys basketball program have piled up some mileage the last two weeks.
Last week there were three trips to Evanston for Class 4A regional games for the Saxons (18-11). Tonight will be the second trek to Winnetka for the 7:30 p.m. sectional championship at New Trier against Central Suburban League champion Niles North (23-6).
And each week there was an extra trip in there for head coach Matt Walsh and his coaching staff to scout their next possible opponent.
"We're getting very familiar with the North Shore," Walsh said with a laugh earlier this week. "There is no easy way."
That also sums up the difficult path the Saxons took to get here as they have gone from a 9-10 record to winning nine of their last 10 games.
They had overtime losses to Downers Grove South, Lockport and Lake Park and overtime wins over St. Joseph, Fremd and Barrington.
They also lost to defending 4A champion Simeon, Proviso East and Curie.
"We lost a lot earlier in the year but we found a way to win those close games in the second half of the season," Walsh said. "Having had those experiences and playing great teams certainly helped prepare us for the regionals and the state tournament."
And senior guard Javon McDonald has produced at an even higher level in the state tournament -- which he also did last year. McDonald is averaging 15.3 points for the season and is at 17 points a game in the postseason.
"He always seems to step up when the team needs him most in the biggest games," Walsh said. "Big games and big moments, he thrives on that."
Schaumburg will also try to continue its postseason run through CSL teams Glenbrook South, Evanston, New Trier and Niles West. It also beat Glenbrook South in the regular season.
And Schaumburg would love to be adding more mileage next Tuesday with a trip to Waukegan for the supersectional.
"It will be a tough one," Schaumburg senior Kurt Kempema said of Niles North. "It comes down to us playing our game."
Vikings on course: Niles North has gone 15-1 since losing to Notre Dame in the championship game of Wheeling's Wildcat Hardwood Classic.
But second-year Niles North coach Glenn Olson said the turnaround actually started after a 50-44 home loss on Dec. 17 to Maine West.
"The key was the acceptance of roles and that was huge," Olson said. "We were playing hard defensively but we brought it to a different level.
"Defensively we've been playing with reckless abandon and offensively we've trusted each other and shared the ball. (Abdel) Nader has trusted his teammates and his teammates realize they have a guy who can carry them on his shoulders."
Wolves on the prowl: Schaumburg had a pair of losing seasons under Bob Williams before getting to a sectional final in his third year there. It only took two years for Williams to get Niles West on the winning track and into a sectional semifinal.
"I'm proud of our kids," Williams said of cutting a 20-point deficit to four before losing 56-48 to Schaumburg. "This helps because the kids took a huge step forward. I'm just disappointed we didn't come out with our best effort to start the game."
Niles West missed 10 of its first 11 shots and committed 6 of its 15 turnovers as it fell behind 22-2 after a little more than nine minutes. It shot 53 percent (18-for-34) the rest of the way.
"It seemed like it was very difficult for us to get in rhythm at both ends of the floor," Williams said. "Once we did you could feel the game change.
"Part of it was Schaumburg's pressure because they do a nice job defensively. And part of it was us … I don't feel like we played our best game and that was obvious early."
Familiar foes: If there was a 3-point shooting contest for the coaches it could be a pretty good matchup between Schaumburg's Matt Walsh and Niles North's Glenn Olson.
They were two of the Mid-Suburban League's best 3-point shooters as Daily Herald All-Area picks -- Walsh at Conant in 1993 and Olson at Rolling Meadows in 1994.
"I didn't even think about that," Olson said with a laugh about the schools that were in the old MSL South. "That was a fun year (1993). They won the league at 9-1, we were second at 8-2 and we beat them at our place."
Marty Manning, who was an all-area guard on Hoffman Estates' 1996 Elite Eight team, has also led Huntley into the 4A Jacobs sectional final against Rockford Auburn.
Alternating possessions: This is the fourth time in the last six years Schaumburg is the final Mid-Suburban League team alive in the state tournament.
•Schaumburg is also the last hope the MSL has for a 20-game winner this year. The last time the league didn't have a team win 20 was 1986-87 when Fremd, Schaumburg and Elk Grove won 19 games.
•The last two MSL champions (Prospect and Fremd) have lost in regional openers.