Aikman's big night helps first-place Palatine top Conant
If there has been a player on the Palatine boys basketball team that has been persistent, it's senior Connor Aikman.
Aikman helped create distance for the host Pirates over Conant Friday night with 9 of his 16 points in the second quarter.
A 20-11 second quarter gave Palatine a 35-19 lead at halftime and the Pirates went on to post a 66-45 win over the Cougars.
The Palatine win coupled with a Schaumburg loss at Barrington has the Pirates on top in the Mid-Suburban West at 7-1. The Pirates moved to 16-10 overall.
"We love Connor so much," said fellow guard Luke Seiffert, who scored 9 points. "He's an awesome teammate. He's just a testament to what the program is about. He's now reaping the benefits of his hard work. He deserves what he's getting. After he hit the first shot and we were going back on defense, I told him to keep shooting."
Aikman played little as a freshman and sophomore. On the junior varsity his abilities began to come forward.
Coming off the bench the first few weeks of the season, Aikman received his first start of the year Dec. 13 against Barrington due to some injuries.
"I started my first game against Barrington and I did pretty good," said Aikman. "I told myself to not let this be a one-and-done. I said let's keep progressing and try to get better. I use that as my baseline. Today was just one of those days. I was getting my shot up and it was falling. I just kept on shooting."
Aikman was also credited with 4 assists.
Palatine coach Eric Millstone remembered something his father Doug Millstone, the former head coach at Buffalo Grove, told him.
"He said something like you expect good things from good players but always look for a player who will surprise you. Connor has done that. He's a soccer player and he knows what it's like to compete. When Connor finds his game," said Millstone, "he adds a different element to the team."
Palatine's Julian Campbell was his usual consistent self. The junior center scored 20 points and had 9 rebounds, which is his average.
"Julian was really efficient tonight," said Millstone. "He made some definitive post moves. He finished his plays strong tonight."
Aikman credited Campbell's inside play for opening up the offense for the Pirate guards, who connected for 10 3-point baskets.
"Julian's play really opened up the outside and we were able to hit those shots," said Aikman. "It was really a good team win."
Conant, now 3-19 overall and 1-7 in the West, played hard throughout and held a 6-2 lead early in the contest.
Palatine used a 10-0 run to lead 12-6 and settled for a 15-8 lead to end the quarter.
The Cougars received some good third-quarter play from Devon Ellis (14 points), Matt McColaugh and Chris Armstrong to whittle the Palatine lead to 51-38 at the end of the quarter.
Campbell scored 6 points and Seiffert 4 in the final quarter to extend the lead.
Brandon Storm added 9 points for Palatine in a reserve role. Tommy Swanson scored 6 and had 6 rebounds.
"We played hard," said Conant coach Jim Maley. "We competed the whole game. It was the most we could ask for. We had some good open shots on both 2 and 3-pointers but we missed some. We worked to get open though."