Barrington's first boys basketball win at Schaumburg in 19 years last Friday was a microcosm of this season.
There was a rough start followed by a big burst of success. Then came a sudden and potentially devastating downturn.
But a big finish in a 40-36 win at Schaumburg has the 15-12 Broncos on a three-game winning streak going into their own Class 4A regional next week.
"They keep battling," first-year Barrington coach Bryan Tucker said after his team recovered from seeing a 7-point lead turn into a 3-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the Saxons.
Three of Barrington's 6 losses since January were by 3 points or less. A 63-50 loss to Conant on Feb. 12 was a 1-point game going into the fourth quarter.
"You can't really get this game experience of close games through practice," said Barrington senior guard Bryan Wegner. "There's nothing like close games to prepare you for the tourney."
Barrington won another close one 58-55 over Libertyville last Saturday and stopped Buffalo Grove 54-45 on Tuesday. It is the top seed in its regional and plays Dundee-Crown or Larkin on Tuesday.
"With a new coach and new system there's a whole new vibe in the program," said Barrington sophomore John Schneider of the surprising turnaround from 7 wins last year. "Our record doesn't really show how good we because we could have won a lot of those games.
"We want to come in strong in the tourney and win the regional. We want to prove everyone wrong."
Fremd fever catches on: Fremd senior Chris Klimek said the student support has been one of the big changes in a year where the Vikings have won the Mid-Suburban League, a division title and 20 games for the first time since 1998.
Football player Eric Shew has been one of the leaders of the charge of the "Gold Rush." Now the show will have to go on the road as Fremd is at Schaumburg for the regional next week and then hopes to make one of the state's most storied sectional venues in Waukegan.
"We'll definitely be in hostile gyms come playoff time," said Fremd guard Zach Monaghan of the possibility of facing Schaumburg on Tuesday and the hope of meeting Waukegan for a sectional title.
Fremd also got a taste of the aura that goes with big postseason games by playing in a highly charged atmosphere against Prospect for the MSL title Wednesday.
"Now we know we can play in games like this," Klimek said.
Signs of a recovery? Prospect has had a tough time finding positive moments the last few weeks in losing five of its last six going into Wednesday's Glenbrook South regional opener with Niles North and Division I prospect Abdul Nader.
The Knights hope their second half in the MSL championship against Fremd was a step in the right direction for a team looking for a second straight regional title.
"It felt right," said Prospect coach John Camardella. "This is the type of effort this team is capable of and they proved they're able to summon it for this type of game."
Prospect was able to cut a 13-point deficit to 3 points in the third quarter. But that's also been a familiar position during this tough stretch.
"We'd definitely like to get a lead in one game," Prospect senior Jack Redding said. "The last couple of games we haven't been able to get a lead and we're always fighting back.
"This was definitely positive momentum for the playoffs. Once we get hot we can be a tough team."
Wildcats hope to strike back: Missing 9 shots, committing 4 turnovers and falling behind 13-1 at Schaumburg on Tuesday night was an eight-minute summary of a frustrating 4-22 season for Wheeling.
But the Wildcats hope a 25-14 fourth quarter where they got within 6 points before falling 61-54 is a preview of better results next year.
"That's kind of been our M.O., we come out in so many games so intimidated and nervous," said Wheeling coach Lou Wool. "We start off turning the ball over and missing assignments on defense and digging ourselves a hole.
"The part this group has struggled with is the mental part - confidence and mental toughness. Hopefully the younger guys can learn from this and build from it."
Wheeling's top three scorers are juniors Tyler Shapiro (8.2 ppg), Riley Harvey (7.3) and Ricky Schwind (6.2, 38 3s). Junior Billy Jaimie was their leading scorer Tuesday with 10 points and sophomore Charlie Kirk has also been on the varsity all year.
But this isn't a case where Wool can't wait to see seniors James Miles, Kevin Kortum, James Barrera and Ryan McClellan depart.
"The four seniors are really terrific kids," Wool said. "No matter what the record is, it's been a pleasure coaching them."
No place like home: Schaumburg has traditionally had one of the better homecourt advantages around and hopes to continue that trend when it hosts a regional next week.
The Saxons had lost four of five at home before beating Wheeling last Tuesday. They host Grant at 6 p.m. Monday in a regional quarterfinal.
"We're very hungry and looking forward to playing the regional on our home floor," said Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh. "It was good for us to get a win and build some momentum heading to the state tournament."
Maine West's rebound machine: Seven rebounds would be considered a solid game for most players. Maine West coach Erik McNeill wasn't happy with 6-3 junior Odera Eneogwe even though that's how many he had in the first half last Friday against Maine East.
"I kind of got on him at halftime," McNeill said with a laugh. "I felt he missed a lot of opportunities to rebound, especially defensively."
It probably looked as if Eneogwe grabbed every rebound after intermission. He had 18 in the final 20 minutes of a 74-69 overtime win to finish with a single-game school record of 25.
Eneogwe, who is averaging 9.8 rebounds a game, broke the record of 20 by Garrett Larkin in 1992.
"When you watch him he's constantly trying to position himself to get those rebounds," McNeill said. "He's making it a skill part of his game and after every game he wants to see his rebounding stats."
Maine West ended up a double winner last Friday as it was also awarded a forfeit from the IHSA as a result of Larkin head coach Deryn Carter not being properly certified.
The Warriors also picked up forfeit wins over Lake Park last year and North Lawndale two years ago.
"That's just bizarre," McNeill said.
Odd recipe for an upset: Losing games the previous weekend by a combined 50 points didn't appear to bode well for Leyden when it hosted perennial West Suburban Gold power Proviso East last Friday.
That made the Eagles' 49-47 victory in Franklin Park even more surprising. They snapped a 21-game losing streak to the Pirates, who suffered their first division loss.
"It was kind of pandemonium," said Leyden coach Bill Heisler of beating Proviso East for the first time since a 52-38 win in Maywood in 1999-2000.
And the Eagles didn't necessarily follow the upset script by shooting just 36 percent from the field and committing 18 turnovers. They were leading by 3 points with 15 seconds left when they fouled a shooter trying a 3-pointer.
He made only the second of 3 free throws but Proviso East got the ball back on a scramble for a rebound in the final three seconds. But Leyden got a stop for its first home win in the matchup since 1994-95 in a 50-49 thriller by the 1994-95 on Anton Collins' shot off an inbound with 0.6 seconds left for a team that finished 24-4.
"The amazing thing to me was how well we rebounded and guarded hard and made free throws down the stretch," Heisler said. "We played incredibly well."
Leyden had a 33-30 rebound advantage with 8 apiece from Brandon Stinson and Eric Palmer and seven from scoring leader Mike Woolf. Stinson also had 7 assists.
Leyden didn't have a letdown as it beat Addison Trail 63-41 on Wednesday to improve to 13-13 going into next Wednesday's Maine South regional semifinal against 18-9 Notre Dame.
"I don't think it's anything crazy compared to the top of our league," Heisler said. "Downers (Grove South) and Proviso prepares you and gets you ready to go."
A third try: Crossing over three times in one year in the MSL is pretty rare. Palatine will try to pull off a three-game sweep when it faces Rolling Meadows at 7:30 p.m. Monday in a Buffalo Grove regional quarterfinal.
Palatine won 52-45 on Jan. 5 and 52-38 on Tuesday - when they were matched up again for an MSL crossover because of the way the schedule worked out with Fremd and Prospect playing for the title.
Meadows senior and MSL scoring leader Richie Kemph (18.8 ppg) scored 22 in the first meeting but was held to a first-quarter 3-pointer the second time by Palatine's Jake Velinski and Nat Pearson.
"The kids did a great job on him defensively," said Palatine coach and BG grad Eric Millstone. "The first time he got a lot of shots in rhythm but (Tuesday) he didn't get a lot after the first quarter."
Team MSL tryouts: Tryouts for Team MSL, a sixth grade AAU team of players residing in Mid-Suburban League school districts, will be held from 7 p.m.-9 p.m., on Monday and Wednesday and March 8 and 10 at Harper College in Palatine.
Tryout cost is $25. To register online or for more information go to teammsl.com.
Curtin honored: Jeff Curtin, who officiated Wednesday's MSL title game, was presented with a plaque before tipoff honoring his father Ed, who spent 17 years as the league's assignment chairman of officials before he died in August. New assignment chairman Fred Allman made the presentation.
Tip-ins: The MSL West swept the final six crossovers - including the title game - to finish the regular season with a 17-3 edge on the East. That includes wins by Fremd over Buffalo Grove and Hoffman over Rolling Meadows at the Elgin Holiday Tournament - St. Joseph saw its 31-game East Suburban Catholic Conference winning streak snapped with a 50-39 loss in last Saturday's unbeaten showdown with eventual champion Benet, which clinched the title with a 54-46 win at Notre Dame on Wednesday - Buffalo Grove hosts a 4A regional semifinal doubleheader Tuesday. Top-seed Waukegan and Illinois-bound Jereme Richmond face Monday's Rolling Meadows-Palatine winner at 6 p.m. and BG playing Conant at 8 p.m.