For visiting Conant, the moment had arrived.
With 3:04 left in the first half and the visiting Cougars leading host Buffalo Grove in a Mid-Suburban League crossover contest 14-12, three-year veteran swingman Ben Schols went to the bench with his second foul. He had company, as veteran starter Ryan Davis had taken a seat with foul No. 2 just a minute earlier.
That left the five on the floor -- Jonathan Kolev, Joe Arriaga, Ike Oduocha, Scott McColaugh and Anthony Wachal -- with one simple mission: hold the Bison at bay until Davis and Schols could return.
While Buffalo Grove outscored the Cougars 4-1 to take a 16-15 lead at the break, Conant gained valuable confidence with it stars on the bench. And that poise eventually helped the Cougars hold on to post a 44-40 win Tuesday night to even its record at 3-3.
"It was definitely a confidence boost for our guys," first-year Cougar mentor Jim Maley IV said. "We tried something in practice where Ryan (Davis) is not allowed to score, which leaves the other guys in a position where they have to come up with the shots. You could see how helpful it was because it was familiar to them, and it turned out to be the key to the game."
Third-quarter 3s from Wachal (7 points) and fellow junior reserve guard Dominic Benigni allowed Conant to take a 29-28 edge into the final period.
After back-to-back hoops from Bison junior forward Tom Trieb (6 points) gave the home team a 32-29 edge with 6:05 remaining, Schols and Davis asserted themselves by cominging for 8 points in a 9-0 run that left Conant had 38-32 with 1:25 to play.
Kolev, a 6-4 junior, made the second of two free throws to finish the decisive surge. That was his only point of the game, but his floor leadership during that final 3:04 of the first half impressed his coach.
"He was tough out there tonight," Maley said. "He really showed both a maturity and a strong presence. Even though he wasn't scoring, he was doing all of the little things. With the mental toughness he brought to our team, he made a key contribution that allowed us to win."
"It's more a matter of gaining confidence," Kolev said. "Last year, I got a little bit of experience of what varsity was like. This year I've learned the value of how to move on from a bad possession to the next one without letting it carry over. I'm also lucky where my teammates have my back, which also helps."
Schols finished with 8 points and 4 assists, and Davis ended up with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Buffalo Grove (4-3) got no closer than 3 (at 38-35), on Jack Vaselaney's final trey of the evening with 1:12 left.
The 6-foot Vaselaney (13 points) and fellow senior Zach Fricke (11 points) both connected three times from beyond the arc. BG finished 6-for-22 from long distance.
"We keep getting good looks, we just simply need to knock them down more," Bison coach Keith Peterson said. "We need to be better, more aggressive in the post. We need to be more active on the floor with regard to loose balls. We just need to better at doing those things."
The game was also unique as it marked yet another home game for the Bison -- they've yet to play on the road. That will change Friday, as Buffalo Grove travels to Wheeling in MSL East play. Conant, meanwhile, gets its home opener against rival Schaumburg in an MSL West game at refurbished Perry Gym, where a new logo will adorn the hardwood and new banners will hang from its rafters.
"I think there are always advantages to being at home," Maley said. "You always tend to get more of a home crowd and having your arch-rival there in Schaumburg, you tend to have a more excited home crowd as well."
"We're so excited to go home," Kolev said. "It's our first home game in our new-look gym against guys who we've grown up with and played against in the past and have a great deal of respect for. I can't wait for Friday to arrive."