Sometimes a basketball game isn't decided by fluid offense and beautiful execution. Sometimes it's about grit and determination.
When Conant and Schaumburg took the floor on Saturday night, it was clear from the outset that the game would not be decided on smoothly executed offense. It would be decided by perseverance -- both mental and physical.
Schaumburg was just a little better at playing the requisite style of game in a 40-37 road victory which left them in a first-place tie for the Mid-Suburban West lead with Fremd and Palatine.
"I'm really proud of our team," Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh said. "I thought our team played really hard. We knew it was going to be this way. We have so much respect for Conant and coach McCormack. His team played so hard. We knew it was going to come down to a possession game. There were some runs back and forth. It was just a great high school game."
Schaumburg (10-8, 4-2) didn't score until nearly the midway point of the first quarter. That's when senior guard Kyle Bolger got rolling. By the end of the quarter, the Saxons had a lead, and Bolger was on his way to scoring 10 of his game-high 14 points in the first half.
"We wanted to make sure we came out attacking them, instead of them attacking us," Bolger said. "We were moving it (the ball) really well. We set a lot of screens. We were getting the ball moved around. That's why we had so many easy baskets at the beginning. Everyone was just working together."
The rebounding statistics told the story for Conant (11-9, 3-3) coach Tom McCormack. Schaumburg pulled down 20 rebounds, while the Cougars had only 9. McCormack said the Saxons had more offensive rebounds than Conant had defensive rebounds.
"It begins and ends right there," McCormack said. "The toughness factor definitely went to them and it was ultimately the difference in the game. They were tougher than we were. Credit to them.
"I thought our kids battled, for what it's worth. We gave ourselves an opportunity. We had it down to a one-possession game and had an opportunity to tie it at the end. Credit to our kids for that. Ultimately, we got outrebounded 20 to 9 in a one-possession game."
Conant junior guard D'Angelo McBride had an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but his 3-point attempt in the final seconds was partially blocked.
Complementing Bolger on the offensive end for the Saxons were Jimmy Lundquist (10 points), and Cole Reyes (9 points). All of Reyes' points came after halftime.
"Cole really stepped up in the second half," Walsh said. "Cole's an experienced player. He's been through it last year and this year. He's certainly one of our leaders. He's a great player. He's a great athlete. Probably what he is most is a great competitor."
McBride shared game-high scoring honors with 14, and senior forward Robert Hudson added 8. Sophomore guard Chris Dolce, who was playing in his first varsity game, scored 8 points off the bench.
"They just outplayed up," McBride said. "We kind of dialed it down when their momentum started going up. They were a lot tougher than us, and that's not how we play. Usually we play a lot tougher, especially in a big like this against Schaumburg. Tonight, I just wish we could take it all back and play it again. And play a lot tougher."