Palatine upends Fremd in OT thriller

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/17/2021 10:00 PM

About the only thing that rivaled the thrilling Fremd-Palatine boys basketball game Friday night was Palatine coach Eric Millstone's delightful deadpan reaction afterward.

"Ho-hum, huh?" he said.

 

Not quite.

Host Palatine -- down 15-11 at the half of the Mid-Suburban League West clash -- took its first lead (33-30) on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Connor May at the 3:49 mark of the fourth quarter, recovered from Fremd senior guard Eli Schoffstall's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and got a pivotal 3-pointer by junior forward Tyler Swierczek to break a 39-39 tie with 3:17 left in overtime.

The Pirates absorbed another trey by Schoffstall more than a minute later and hung on for a 44-42 victory, improving to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the MSL West.

Missing in action in the packed gym: yawning.

The blinding stars of the show were the 6-foot-6 May and the 6-foot Schoffstall, blessed with the coveted clutch gene. May, a first-year varsity hoopster, poured in a season-high 22 points -- or half of Palatine's output -- and Schoffstall tallied all 17 of his points, including 4 3-pointers, after halftime.

"Eli," Millstone said, "is a flat-out gamer. I told him after the game that he probably would have scored 25 more points if we had to play another OT."

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Vikings coach Bob Widlowski was almost as effusive about May afterward.

"Connor May stepped up nicely for Palatine under the bright lights," Widlowski said. "Big. He was the big difference-maker.

"Great high school basketball game," added the 1986 Palatine graduate, whose son Bobby Widlowski, a Pirates senior guard, scored 2 points and grabbed 3 rebounds.

"Great atmosphere, too."

May (game-high-tying 7 rebounds) scored all 7 of Palatine's points in the first quarter, before both squads managed only 4 points apiece in the second frame.

Schoffstall struck for his first points of the night early in the third quarter, his trey stretching Fremd's lead to 18-11. Swierczek (11 points) answered with a field goal before Fremd senior forward Archie Cox's 3-point play gave the visitors a 21-13 advantage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Vikes (7-2, 1-1) led 26-22 after three stanzas.

Pirates senior guard DJ Dick delivered a pair of slick assists (first to May and then to Swierczek) in the first 3 minutes of the fourth quarter, setting the stage for all kinds of drama.

Millstone's son, Pirates junior guard Sam Millstone, dished the assist on May's critical corner 3 that busted the 30-30 stalemate and electrified Palatine's student fans.

Two free throws by Palatine junior forward Grant Dersnah (5 points, 6 boards) upped the Pirates' lead to 37-34 with 1:23 left in regulation.

Three timeouts -- two by Fremd, one by Palatine (with 10 ticks remaining) -- ensued. Schoffstall then stunned the Pirates and elated Vikings Nation with his sensational 3 right before the buzzer.

Schoffstall netted all 5 of his club's points in OT.

"We still felt we had the momentum heading into overtime," May said. "We're tough and gritty guys. And we love to play basketball."

Fremd junior guard Ryan Sammons scored 9 of his 13 points in the first half. Cox came down with 7 rebounds.

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