Buffalo Grove secures its place in MSL title game
All the dominoes were lined up for Buffalo Grove to win a share of its first MSL East Division title, as well as clinching a berth to play in the MSL Championship game next Wednesday if it took care of business by beating Elk Grove for a second time this season after having beat them last month at home by 41 points.
Still, they would have to do it on the Grenadiers' home court against a host team that has developed a pugilistic spirit, that according to senior forward Jordan Miller, has his teammates vowing to fight any foe "until the last minute on the clock."
Elk Grove lived up to that billing as it bravely fought the Bison, pulling within 10 late in the third quarter.
However, despite its best efforts, Elk Grove was unable to come up with an answer for stopping Buffalo Grove 6-5 sophomore sensation Kam Craft as his game-high 32-point outburst paced the Bison in a 74-45 win at Charles Aldrich Gymnasium Friday.
The win, coupled with Hersey's upset home win over Rolling Meadows, gave the Bison (23-6, 9-1) an outright East crown and coach Keith Peterson his 100th career win. It also gave Buffalo Grove a ticket to Wednesday's MSL title game at Schaumburg. The Saxons (23-6, 8-2) downed Palatine 35-21 on their home court to claim outright West honors.
"It's a great night," a happy Peterson said of his first championship as a head coach. "Credit to Elk Grove tonight. They made us work. Nerves started showing a little bit for our guys who were not used to being in those situations. We got some big plays in the fourth. Once we got rolling, our defensive energy stepped up and we made some shots."
That came after the Grenadiers (4-25, 0-10) had battled back from a 20-point second quarter deficit to get within 44-34 on a Mauro Garay layup off a Mark Matos assist with 22 seconds left in the third.
From that moment forward, it would be all Buffalo Grove as it embarked on a decisive 18-5 run that put it comfortably ahead 62-39 on a Matt Brunelli 3-pointer with 5:00 left in the game.
Craft had 9 of his points during that run that also featured a Nate Cole slam for two of his 10 points that got the traveling Bison student contingent off its feet.
Craft credited his teammates for keeping their composure through the contest against their opponent.
"We treat every game the same," he said. "We came out hungry for the win. We knew what was on the line, so we stayed focused, turned on the jets and then pulled away."
Miller (team-high 18 points) proudly spoke of his team's effort.
"We knew what they had at stake so we wanted to show them we weren't going to be a pushover," he said. "In the second half, we played good, got it within 10, but they got hot again and we had no answer for that."