Not many people gave Elk Grove's boys basketball team much of a chance of beating the second-seeded Pirates of Proviso East, or even staying close.
But in March Madness anything can happen.
The Grenadiers gave it their best effort before succumbing to the Pirates 71-57 in a Class 4A Elk Grove regional semifinal.
The Pirates (22-6) eventually wore down No. 15 Elk Grove (15-13) late in the game to pull out the win.
"Proviso East had to play their best game to beat us tonight," said Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman. "I couldn't be more proud of our players. We gave them all they wanted."
Early on, it looked the Pirates, after opening an 8-0 lead, might walk away.
A 3-point basket by Dan Hadler put the Grenadiers on the right track.
Elk Grove pulled to 13-13 with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
The Pirates went on a 6-2 run to finish the quarter leading 19-14.
Trailing 25-22 with 5:05 left in the second quarter, the Grens went on an 8-0 run to lead 29-25 behind two 3-point point baskets by Joell Melendez (17 points) and 2 free throws by Scott Furlong.
With 2:19 left, Proviso East finished the half with a 7-2 run to lead 38-35.
"We were right there with them," Furman said. "We started out shaky but then we started driving to the basket and made them play defense. We made them work for their points."
Furlong (14 points, 11 rebounds) battled inside and made his presence felt.
"We played hard and we took the lead away from them," said Furlong. "We wanted to give them our best game and we did."
Following Melendez's basket with 4:45 left in the third quarter, the Grens trailed 42-40. Proviso East began to chip away.
Antonio Williams, (11 points), Jevon Carter (25 points. 8 rebounds, 4 steals) and Kalim Fisher all scored for a 49-40 lead.
The Pirates finished the quarter with an 8-4 run to lead 57-46 after three quarters.
With 5:04 left in the game, Antony Bianchini hit a 3-point basket to make the score 63-55 but Elk Grove could get no closer.
"I knew Elk Grove would play us tough," said Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce. "They played their hearts out. But I'm proud of my team. We were able to answer all of their runs. I think late in the third quarter and fourth quarter we were able to wear them down some."
Proviso East blocked 8 shots but only outrebounded the Grens by 5 at 33-28.
"We accomplished a lot this year," Furman said. "We wanted to take steps to turn the program around. Our players earned a second-place conference tie and we had a winning season."
"I couldn't be more proud of my teammates," said Furlong. "Losing by 14 points to a team like Proviso East is nothing to be ashamed of. It's the first winning season the school has had in a while. We competed in every game we played."