As the torch passes, Rolling Meadows' Christie brothers soak it all in
It was part little brother bidding a fond farewell to big brother, and it was part big brother passing down the torch.
The Christie brothers, Max and Cameron, have become synonymous with Rolling Meadows boys basketball over the last several years.
And on Saturday night, the two played a big role in leading the host Mustangs to a 49-41 victory over Barrington in the Mid-Suburban League championship game.
With Barrington double- and triple-teaming big brother Max, a Michigan State signee who is the MSL's all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 points, little brother Cameron went off for a game-high 22 points, as if he was not only trying to help the Mustangs win the game, but also trying to send his brother off to college in style.
"I wanted to make sure we won, and I wanted to make sure that (Max) and all the seniors had fun, and winning is fun," Cameron Christie, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, said. "It was pretty meaningful out there with (Max), because there's no guarantee that I'll ever play with him again in an organized game. I really appreciate that we've had the opportunity to play together as much as we have. It's very rare and not a lot of people get to do that. I just wanted to go out there and soak it all up and have as much fun as I possibly could."
Meanwhile, Max, a 6-foot-7 senior guard and one of the top-rated high school players in the country, did his part in the final game of his high school career.
"It was my last high school basketball game and it feels really good to cap it off with a conference championship," Max Christie said.
Big brother Christie scored only 8 points on 2-of-12 shooting, about 16 points below his average, but he was a disrupter as the point of the Rolling Meadows press that terrorized Barrington and forced 19 turnovers, including a handful during the decisive final minutes. He also went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final minute to help seal the deal.
"Credit to Barrington, they did a great job defending me, double-teaming me, triple-teaming me at points," Max Christie said. "I was just trying to look for my open teammates and they hit the shots and this is why we're such a great team. It's not just me. They can double-team me and triple-team me as much as they want, but in the end, I have teammates who will do whatever they need to do to win the game.
"Cameron especially played really, really well, like he normally does. He's always scoring, he's always getting to the basket and always being really effective on the defensive end. He did such a great job tonight and I'm just glad we got the win."
The Christie brothers have teamed up for many wins at Rolling Meadows, but none were quite as meaningful as this season, considering they weren't sure they were even going to get this last hurrah together due to COVID-19.
Together the brothers, who combined to average nearly 40 points per game this season, helped Rolling Meadows run the table to a 15-0 record and its first MSL title since 1991.
"Those two are great kids, and they come from a great family," Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said. "I don't think people realize how hard it is to get to the level they're at, the amount of time and work they put in, and the sacrifice they make. People think, 'Oh, I could do that.' But they don't see that they're here shooting and working out and working on their skills three to four hours a day.
"It was fitting (that Cameron had a big game in Max's final high school game), making sure that his big brother goes out on the right note. And also kind of establishing kind of a 'Thanks for being a role model, but now it's my turn.' Now it's his opportunity to step out of that shadow and create his own identity."
Then again, Cameron Christie would probably be just fine being known as one of the Christie brothers. That means he's in very good company.
Katovich says that Max Christie's legacy at Rolling Meadows and in the MSL and in the state of Illinois cannot be overstated.
"In my opinion, Max is the best player to ever play in the MSL, and his work ethic is going to take him wherever he wants to go. I've never met a kid in anything who works as hard as he does," Katovich said. "And he's such a great kid, too and so humble. He's meant so much to the program and the school and the community. I'm just glad we could do this for him, because of everything he's done for us."