If Schaumburg's boys basketball team makes another postseason run it will be without the proverbial glass slippers.
The Saxons won't be taking the double-digit seed route to Class 4A sectional finals as they did the last two years. This year they are seeded third in their own sectional behind undefeated Proviso East and Oak Park-River Forest.
And the Saxons (18-5, 7-1) can clinch at least a share of the Mid-Suburban West title and their 11th division crown in history with a win at Palatine (2-21, 1-7) at 7:30 p.m. today.
So, what has allowed this team to already match last year's win total?
"It's one of the closest teams I've ever been a part of," said Schaumburg senior forward Michael Mallett after last Friday's 42-37 win at Fremd.
"Our chemistry has really come together," said Schaumburg junior center Jimmy Lundquist. "In and out of basketball we hang out together and that really helps."
It's apparent as the Saxons' 57-52 win at Glenbard North on Tuesday was their fifth in a row in games decided by 5 points or less. A lot of it comes through the trust the Saxons have from scoring leader Christian Spandiary, point guard Kyle Bolger, Mallett, Lundquist and starting guard Joey Faleni to top reserves Justin Hill, Thomas Byrne, Bobby Greene and Cole Reyes.
"We have a lot of good players," said Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh, "and every night we believe somebody will step up."
Mallett does it in a way -- every day -- that is not quiet.
"He's always talking," Lundquist said with a smile.
"One day coach asked me if I ever stopped talking," Mallett interjected with a smile. "In football and basketball, I've always been like that."
But Mallett has done more than just talk a good game and has provided more than just 7 points a game for the Saxons.
"Michael has gotten better all year," Walsh said. "Without a doubt he's one of our emotional leaders. He had as much to do with our victory tonight as anybody else.
"He just has a way about him. It's a really unselfish group that plays well together and Michael embodies that."
The 6-foot-5 Lundquist had one of his best and toughest all-around games at Fremd with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
"I feel like I've gotten stronger throughout the year and in every aspect of the game I've stepped up," Lundquist said.
"Jimmy has gotten consistently better throughout the season, especially in areas other than scoring," Walsh said. "He has such a high basketball IQ and he might be our best help defender. He's become more of a complete player."
Now the Saxons will try to wrap up the West on the road against a Palatine team that trailed by only a point after three quarters before falling 47-37 in the first meeting.
"Getting a road win in the MSL West is difficult and we have another tough challenge going to Palatine," Walsh said.
Rolling Broncos: Barrington (16-7, 6-2) picked a good time for its best run of the season as it takes a four-game winning streak into today's 7:30 p.m. game at Hoffman Estates (6-13, 0-8).
One of the big things that's helped the Broncos is 6-foot-7 John Schneider now has played eight games after missing the first 15 with a broken hand. Schneider is averaging 8.3 points and has hit double figures his last three games.
"After missing seven weeks everyone is in midseason form and he's back where he was at the beginning," said Barrington coach Bryan Tucker."It takes time to get back and that affects our team."
"It's good to have him back and it's a luxury to have him back," said senior forward Mark Bennett. "When he first came back he just wasn't where he wanted to be at and the team chemistry wasn't where we wanted it to be at. We've raised both things to play at a higher level."
The other West game has Conant (11-11, 5-3) at Fremd (14-9, 5-3) at 7:30 today.
Stunning end to slide: It appeared to be more of the same old, same old when Elk Grove went to halftime with Prospect last week.
The Grenadiers' 16-point deficit was right on the average margin in their nine-game losing streak to the Knights. Their 24 points had them on pace to end up with less than 50 -- which had occurred eight times during the skid.
Then Zach Solorio and Austin Amann led the ultimate streak-busting 51-point second half as the Grenadiers stunned the four-time defending MSL East champs 75-71.
"It's been a season where we've turned the corner with teams that had kind of owned us," said Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman of also ending a nine-game skid to Buffalo Grove and snapping a long skid to Conant.
Elk Grove owned the second half with 20-for-29 shooting as Amann and Solorio combined to finish with 50 points. Jeff Miceli's defense also slowed Prospect guard Mike LaTulip on a night he set the school's career scoring record.
And the Grenadiers held on even though leading scorer and rebounder and point guard Amann sat the last 3½ minutes with a sprained ankle.
All from a team that had lost the previous three meetings by 31, 24 and 25 points.
"It was an unbelievable second-half effort," Furman said. "They were resilient. At halftime we said, 'Take the lid off and let's go play.'"
The win helped Rolling Meadows (14-8, 7-1) clinch a share of its first East title since 2005 and a berth in the MSL title game since it has the advantage on all the tiebreakers. It can win its first outright crown since it won the MSL South in 1997-98 when it hosts Wheeling (2-20, 1-7) at 7:30 p.m. today.
Elk Grove (10-13, 3-5) is at Hersey (9-12, 5-3) at 7:30 and Buffalo Grove (10-13, 3-5) is at Prospect (13-7, 5-3) at 7:30.
Streaking Leyden: A pair of tough road wins at Morton and Maine West has Leyden (14-7) on a four-game winning streak and in position for its most wins since the 1998-99 team was 18-10 if it beats visiting Willowbrook tonight.
The Eagles' 76-66 win at Morton last Friday saw them lead 52-31 with 11:34 to play, trail 62-59 with 2:29 left and then score 17 of the last 21 points.
They also pulled it off even though point guard and leading scorer Alex Herrera was 1-for-13 from the field. Patrick Listwan scored 5 of his 19 points in the decisive finish and Sammy Moya (13 points) and Herrera combined to hit 12 of 14 free throws the last 1:19. Jonny Woolf also had 15 points and Omar Lazoya added 13.
Christian Liberty hosts NAC tourney: It will be a busy weekend at Christian Liberty when it hosts the inaugural Northeastern Athletic Conference tournament. The Arlington Heights school will use two gyms and each team is guaranteed three games.
No. 3 seed Christian Liberty plays Mooseheart and No. 2 Rockford Christian Life plays IMSA at 6 p.m. today. At 4:30 p.m., top seed Rockford Christian plays Alden-Hebron and No. 4 Westminster Christian plays Luther North.
The semifinals are at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Grace Gym. The third-place game is at 4 p.m. with the championship at 5:30 p.m.
Tip-ins: St. Viator (19-3) can claim its sixth 20-win season in history when it hosts Nazareth at 7:30 p.m. Monday in a rescheduled East Suburban Catholic Conference game. It starts a busy week for the Lions with a trip to Prospect on Tuesday and a home game with Joliet Catholic on Thursday.
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