At Buffalo Grove this season, it's all about family.
The basketball family, that is, and it's looking pretty tightly knit after Monday night's 57-49 win over Elgin in the first round of the Bison Classic at BG.
A lineup short on height and the experience it usually takes to close out games battled through all that successfully. BG held off Elgin's second-half surge, hit its free throws and the boards and played tough defense down the stretch to win Keith Peterson's first game as head coach.
He knows what his team is short on and he knows how hard they work to overcome it.
"We've got six seniors," explained Peterson, before adding, "This is their first end-of-game experience."
They handled it like seasoned veterans. Andrew Apel (game-high 21 points) and Ryan Williams combined to hit 8 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away from a stubborn Elgin squad that rallied from late in the second quarter into the third to knot the game after three.
Apel's steady play helped BG regain its touch after a hot start and a mid-game cooling off period in the heat of Elgin's rally.
"It got a lot closer than it should've been," Apel said, after BG let a 25-15 lead get away. That edge was built on the sharpshooting of Apel, Kyle Calcagno (15 points) and Scott Smithern, whose pull-up jumper in the lane put BG ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
Elgin rallied on the torrid shooting of sophomore forward Lavion Baldwin (19 points), who hit four consecutive shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, from the second quarter into the third. With the steadying hand of Ryan Sitter at the point, the Maroons actually turned their 10-point deficit into a seesaw event, with the lead changing hands four times from late in the third quarter into the fourth.
Elgin couldn't hang in, though, and coach Mike Sitter knew why.
"We missed (13) free throws. We lost our two senior leaders to fouls late," he said.
That would be Ryan Sitter and starting center Kiko Mari, along with guard Donte Harper. Now the coach is hoping they all stay on the court long enough to challenge state power Stevenson on Saturday in the round-robin event.
BG kept its family together, though.
"It's important for the whole program. We want everyone to come together," said Apel.
"He's kind of the one leading that," said Peterson, who was BG's freshman coach last year, where he had 6-foot-5 sixth man Hans Haller.
The sophomore who gave him some valuable minutes in relief of foul-plagued Williams, Calcagno and starting center Dave Warden, who did foul out.
The Bison resume play Wednesday against Grayslake Central.