Palatine clinches 1st outright MSL West title since 1996
It will be a night that Palatine basketball will savor forever.
After winning their game at Barrington Friday night, Palatine didn't want to leave.
It wasn't that Palatine wanted to celebrate their 54-33 victory over the Broncos. It was that the Pirates wanted to watch more basketball.
So the entire team and their coaching staff huddled around a couple of cellphones in the visitor's locker room watching the livestream of the Conant-Fremd game. And when Conant came away with a 53-50 overtime victory, that's when the Pirates' celebration truly began.
Palatine (20-6, 8-1) had won its first outright conference title since 1996. The Pirates have a two-game lead over both Barrington and Fremd with just one game remaining in MSL West play. It also meant that the Pirates' game with Fremd next Friday will not be a consequential as it could have been.
"What they just experienced there together is how we have done things all year together," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "It is just fitting that we did it in the intimacy of the locker room together. That was special."
Palatine had shared conference championships in the last 27 years. However, the Pirates have not had the opportunity to play in the MSL title game because they had lost West division tiebreakers.
"This is what you set your goal out every season back in November," Millstone said. "We have shared it, but haven't won it. We will enjoy this."
Palatine will play at East division champion Rolling Meadows on Feb. 15.
They will hope to get off to as good start against the Mustangs as they did against the Broncos on Friday.
Tommy Elter helped jump-start the Pirates as they scooted out to a 7-0 lead thanks in part to a pair of Barrington turnovers.
"It is kind of my role to have the motor on the top of our 1-2-2," said Elter, who would finish with a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"I just was keeping everyone going. It was best game of the season and it was a great time for it to happen."
Barrington (17-4, 6-3), which never led, chipped away at the Palatine lead. The Broncos closed to 17-14 midway through the second quarter when the Pirates began to pull away.
Forcing a trio of turnovers, the Pirates answered with three-pointers by Tyler Swierczek (11 points) and May and a three-point play by Elter to open up 26-14 lead.
Barrington's Donovan Nichols knocked down a three-pointer with just under a minute left in the half. That's when Palatine pushed the metal all the way to the floor.
The Pirates not only ran off the final five points of the half, they opened the second half with a flurry. They ran off 15 unanswered points to begin the half to lead 46-17 as Barrington struggled against the Pirates' 1-2-2 defense and missed seven consecutive shots.
Connor May again was a force all game for the Pirates. The junior finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.
"We practiced all week just moving and just flying around closing out on threes," May said. "I thought we executed real well."
Barrington was led by Nichols, who finished with 15 points, and Nick Peipert, who had six points.
"It was one of those nights," Barrington coach Bryan Tucker said. "They played great and we played awful. They are really talented and they showed that tonight."