For those of you hoops fans that are into bracketology, Schaumburg junior guard Heze Trotter has some advice:
"There's no such thing as a perfect bracket," Trotter says. "All it takes is for one thing to throw it completely off course."
Trotter has some facts to back his statement up.
In each of the last two postseasons, a double-digit area seed has made it into sectional play as Lake Park (No. 11) and Hoffman Estates (No. 15) busted brackets.
Unfortunately for Trotter and his hoopmates, they ran into a battle-tested Stevenson unit that did just enough to avoid bracket chaos as the Patriots held off Schaumburg's challenge 35-27 in Tuesday's Class 4A Buffalo Grove regional semifinal.
The third-seeded Patriots (20-7) advance to Friday's regional title against the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between No. 10 seed Fremd (15-12) and the sixth-seeded regional host Bison (17-9).
"We played good defense tonight," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "We were successful in getting the key rebound when we needed it. We talked about keeping ourselves mentally tough through the twists and turns that a game can take, and as a result we survived and advanced."
The North Suburban tri-champions did so despite a rough fourth quarter in which it went 0-for-5 from the field and only 3-for-7 from the free throw line along with being outrebounded 9-6 by Schaumburg.
Stevenson withstood a gutsy effort by the 19th-seeded Saxons, who rallied after spotting Stevenson a 28-17 advantage on back-to-back buckets from 6-7 senior Nick Bonk (10 points, 10 rebounds) with 4:20 left in the third.
That rally started when 6-2 senior Jerry Clark connected from beyond the arc with 3:47 remaining in the period, bringing the Saxons (11-18) back within single digits at 28-20.
A Michael Hodges putback followed by a Dominic Tyler layup got Schaumburg within 28-24 at the 2:17 mark of the third.
But Tyler's layup was Schaumburg's final hoop of the evening as the Saxons missed their last two field goal tries of the period and all 16 of their attempts in the final frame to finish 11-for-39 (28 percent) for the night.
Still, despite the Saxons' offensive struggles, the outcome remained in doubt due to the Patriots' inability to put the ball in the basket. Stevenson missed its last 7 shots of the game after Jackson Qualley's 3 with 1:55 left in period three.
It took a pair of foul shots from 6-3 senior forward Samvit Ram (game-high 12 points) with 43 seconds remaining to settle matters as Stevenson hit on only a third (12-for-36) of its field goal attempts and finished 6-for-14 on free throws.
"I think getting key stops on defense was the story of the night for us," Ram said. "We pride ourselves on being a strong defensive team. Give them (Schaumburg) a lot of credit. They didn't back down and came at us strong."
Schaumburg's brother combo of 6-2 junior Michael (7 points, 6 boards) and 6-8 freshman Chris (6 points) led the Saxons in scoring.
For their coach Wade Heisler, he was left in the Saxon's locker room pondering what might've been.
"I thought our boys played really hard tonight," Heisler said. "It was a hard-fought game versus a very good Stevenson team."
He also took a moment to pay homage to his three departing seniors -- Clark, Tyler and fellow guard Brandon Barber -- for helping advance the program.
"I'm going to miss those guys so very much," Heisler said. "They've put in such a tremendous amount of hard work to get this program in a better place. We need to keep it moving in that direction."
Meanwhile, for the Patriots and their head coach, it's a matter of looking forward to Friday night.
"It's the playoffs," Ambrose said. "Each game forward becomes another level, a different challenge to face. It's where having experience can even things out for you."