Buffalo Grove downs Wheeling to reach Hardwood consolation final
Thirty-two years ago this week the Wheeling Hardwood Classic boys basketball tournament started to crown a consolation champion to the team that won three in a row after dropping its first tournament game.
The first consolation winner, Schaumburg, guided by the late Ron Cregier, would then go on a 17-3 finish that placed the Saxons in a Class AA sectional final.
Last year, Glenbrook South parlayed its consolation title into a Class 4A sectional berth, leaving this year's consolation semifinalists fully aware of what may come from such a strong finish.
In its 61-48 triumph over Wheeling Friday afternoon, Buffalo Grove used a strong start to keep the tournament host at bay and earn a berth in Saturday's 5:30 p.m. consolation final versus defending Hardwood Classic champion Geneva (7-4), a 49-45 winner over Deerfield in the first consolation semi.
It was the second win in a three-week span for the Bison over the Wildcats as they prevailed 71-62 in a home Mid-Suburban East win December 6.
"I'm proud of the way the guys handled today's challenge. It was hard playing a conference team in the middle of the week and on their home court," Buffalo Grove coach Keith Peterson said. "I loved our energy that we came out with. Our guys knew this game was important and they came out and executed."
That decisive execution came in the form of a 14-4 beginning over the game's first 4:07 that kept BG (10-3) in a relatively comfortable climate throughout the rest of the contest. Sophomore Kam Craft's recovery of a loose ball that he turned into a slam dunk, followed by junior Kyle Brosnahan's drive inside the lane put the finishing touches on the run.
The remaining three quarters would see Wheeling (6-6) attempt to climb its way back into the game but it got no closer than 9 twice in the final 3:05 on a pair of successful conversions at the foul line that left the Wildcats down 57-48 before 4 straight Steph Harris points ended any hope of a comeback.
Craft, who paced all scorers with 19 points in addition to 10 rebounds, credited his teammates' initial energy burst for getting the Bison off to a good start.
"The last couple of games, we started off slow," he said. "Today we got off to a good lead and it worked out for us. We came out with a lot of energy."
Senior forward Nate Cole added 14 points and 6 rebounds while fellow Bison senior Tyler Kipley joined Brosnahan with 9 points and Harris added 8.
Kipley paid homage to his supporting cast and its ability to work well together.
"We're gaining more confidence and becoming a more solid team all around," he said. "I (always) know that everyone can pick up one another."
Wheeling, which will face Deerfield (6-6) in a 2 p.m. Saturday game, was led by senior Javen Reid's 17 points and junior guard Solomon Hudson's 11.
"One of the biggest challenges is getting off to great starts in the first quarter," Wildcats coach Mike O'Keeffe said. "We dug ourselves a hole against a team with that amount of talent."