Buffalo Grove overcomes Wheeling
Nate Cole was spot on with his analysis.
"Part of being on a team, there's always some internal conflict," Cole said.
Maybe that's the experience in him talking. The Buffalo Grove senior forward has been on his share of basketball teams over the years. He's seen the dynamics, the chemistry and the personalities of many different teams.
But this Buffalo Grove team, which could be rife with the drama of a power struggle between a young star and the old guard, is a little different from others.
"Our team is just a really nice group of guys," Cole said. "And everyone gets along and is accepting."
The Bison did a great job last year of accepting freshman star Kam Craft into the fold. Craft had a 30-point game in his varsity debut and wound up leading the team in scoring for the season.
This year, Craft, a sophomore, is still grabbing the headlines, as he did on Friday night in scoring a team-high 24 points in a 71-62 Mid-Suburban League East win over visiting Wheeling.
But just like last year, the upperclassmen are accepting in their role of support for Craft, and against Wheeling, there was quite a bit of that support, which came in handy when the Wildcats held Craft scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Cole finished with 12 points for Buffalo Grove (4-2, 1-0 MSL East) while fellow seniors Matt Brunelli and Tyler Kipley finished with 18 points and 10 points respectively.
"I think all the (older) guys have all accepted that Kam is such a good player and that we've got to give him the ball," Kipley said. "We definitely pick up on Kam's energy when he's hot. But if he's ever not, we're able to pick him up."
Craft exploded for 19 first-half points to give the Bison a 37-28 lead at halftime.
Brunelli was also productive with 9 first-half points, as was Cole with 7 points.
"Having a younger guy on the team like Kam, we talk all the time as seniors about keeping a good relationship with all the guys on the team," Cole said. "It's been pretty easy because Kam did such a great job of fitting in last year. It was a smooth transition."
Brunelli helped Buffalo Grove smooth out the win with four four-quarter free throws in the waning moments. He topped the Bison in fourth-quarter scoring with 6 points and sees a give-and-take relationship between the seniors and Craft.
"We definitely learn things from Kam," Brunelli said. "But he learns things from us too."
Meanwhile, the Bison learned that Wheeling (4-1, 0-1 MSL East) is relentless.
There were countless times that it looked like Buffalo Grove was about to blow the game open. But the Wildcats kept coming right back, often cutting their deficit to below 10 points, and to as few as seven points late in the fourth.
Senior forward Javen Reid had a lot to do with that. He finished with a career-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers. Christian McLaughlin added 10 points for Wheeling.
"We were playing defense hard and crashing the boards hard," Reid said. "I'm just proud of my team to keep fighting even though we were down in their house. We played a nice game.
"My mentality is to always be aggressive and to trust in my coaches because they always believe in me. I just try to play as hard as I can."