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Around midseason, Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh had a talk with Kyle Bolger, Jimmy Lundquist and Cole Reyes.
After the Saxons had picked up two early conference losses, Walsh's message to his senior trio was simple, yet impactful: it was their team and they needed to step up and take ownership of it.
The three left their mark on Friday night's 48-36 win over visiting Palatine, combining for 37 points in leading their team to its sixth consecutive division victory and clinching a third straigh Mid-Suburban West crown.
And by the time they exited the floor with eight seconds left along withclassmates Bobby Green and Carlos Sarasti, they were honored with a standing ovation from a near-capacity crowd and a hug from Walsh.
"It means everything," said Bolger, who finished with a team-high 16 points.
"That's what we've been working for this whole season. Beginning of the season, we started off kind of low, not where we wanted to be. But we really picked it up and came out strong at the end."
"It's not just about tonight's win," Walsh said. "It's a culmination of a lot of hard work over a long period of time. They're just great kids who are very deserving."
The Saxons (16-9, 8-2) did it with their trademark defense, holding the Pirates (15-12, 6-4) to just 12 points 2-of-15 shooting in the second half.
"We struggled to shoot the ball, but they definitely had something to do with that," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone. "We got very few clean looks. We really had to work for everything."
While the offensive totals weren't eye-popping, Schaumburg was deliberate and patient in the second half, just like they strive to be.
Reyes canned a 3-pointer for a 36-27 lead midway through the third quarter. And after Greg Grana's two free throws cut the lead to 5,
Lundquist (14 points, 9 rebounds) drained a 3-pointer just before the third quarter buzzer. Bolger then opened the fourth quarter with his own triple before hitting Lundquist for a layup and 44-31 lead with 4:13 remaining.
"We knew they wanted to run and gun so we wanted to settle it down and get some inside-out play," Lundquist said. "That's what really changed the game."
Palatine's Roosevelt Smart finished with 16 points, including a dazzling shooting display in the first quarter that included three 3-pointers in helping the Pirates to an early 20-15 lead. But the sophomore attempted just 5 shots in the last three quarters as a group effort led by Reyes limited his touches and looks.
Smart left the game at the 5:32 mark of the fourth after cutting his head open. He didn't return and was on his way to the hospital after the game to get stitches.
Ryan Kase and Green also had key buckets in the second quarter to aid the comeback for a Saxons squad that will meet Prospect in Wednesday's MSL title game.
"At this point in the season, it's the seniors that need to take control and take ownership," Walsh said. "Our seniors have done as good of a job as anybody."