Schuamburg survives Taft's upset bid
More than one Mid-Suburban League boys basketball championships team over the years has had the dubious distinction of going from the high of MSL glory one week to the low of having their season come crashing down the following week with an opening-round regional loss.
This year's MSL champ, Schaumburg, a No. 5 seed in the Class 4A Elk Grove/Robert Morris sectional complex, had a unique dilemma in facing Chicago Taft, a 20-game winner that was tagged with a No. 12 seed, on its home floor Wednesday evening in a regional semifinal.
"I don't think they deserved their seed," Schaumburg senior guard Arnav Karnik said of the Eagles. "I thought they should've been seeded higher."
And for nearly three quarters, the Eagles played with a chip on their shoulder, giving the hosts all they could handle until Karnik's second 3-pointer of the night keyed a 16-5 run that helped to bring the Saxons a 49-34 win that advanced them to Friday's regional final versus No. 4 Niles North (25-5).
"We've watched them play," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said of Taft. "We knew it was going to be a battle. At the end of the day, I thought we did some really good things on defense, especially in the second half. If you can hold a team to 15 points a half (Taft's first-half point total) you're going to be in good shape."
Holding the visitors to just 29 percent shooting on the evening (14-for-48) allowed the Saxons (25-6) to slowly pull away as they were undergoing a shooting slump in the middle periods where they went just 6 of 17.
That's where Karnik's 3 with 3:15 left in the third started Schaumburg's offensive engine. A buzzer-beating triple by fellow senior Jared Schoo gave the Saxons a 29-19 advantage to take into the fourth. After Taft's Dexter Stigall had a putback that cut the deficit to 29-21, treys from sophomore Vaurice Patterson along with Karnik's third 3 plus a Chris Hodges putback gave the Saxons breathing room at 37-22 with 3:40 left. The Eagles (20-12) would get no closer than 43-34 on the last five of senior forward Matthew Lesch's 10 points with 1:34 remaining.
Hodges, the 6-foot-8 junior Wisconsin commit led all scorers with 13 points plus 8 rebounds. Stigall, a senior Minnesota State-Mankato football recruit, led Taft with 12 points.
Karnik, who along with Schoo and Patterson tossed in 9 points apiece, credited them along with junior guard Armen Torosian for finding him open.
"Vaurice, Armen, Jared -- they're always finding people open and I was just the one who was open today," Karnik said. "I just try to stretch the defense every time."