Seven schools were mathematically alive for divisional championships at the Upstate Eight Conference boys golf tournament Wednesday afternoon in West Chicago.
In the end, however, Neuqua Valley and St. Charles North reversed their lone regular-season divisional dual-meet losses to emerge triumphantly against the backdrop of St. Andrews' demanding par-71 layout.
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In the Valley Division, Waubonsie Valley, the two-time defending champion, forged a three-way tie for first with its victory over the Wildcats at White Eagle Country Club last week.
But Neuqua Valley earned its fifth tournament championship of the season as Nick Rouches led three players in the 70s with a 3-over 74.
Fellow seniors Jason Roach, Reid Whiting and Ian Nebendahl added respective rounds of 75, 77 and 80 for Neuqua Valley, which denied the Warriors 306-312.
Roach had a most unusual conclusion to his day as the senior was assessed a 2-stroke penalty in his playoff with Waubonsie Valley junior Austin Datz for striking his first shot ahead of the tee marker.
Datz claimed medalist honors with a par on the first hole, but Roach had the significance of being on the team champion.
"It definitely brightens my day," Roach said. "We had the mentality that we had to beat Waubonsie. I made the best out of the round that I didn't think was as good as it should have been. I made a lot of pars."
Zach Mayer and Jason Marrs contributed rounds of 77 and 79 for Waubonsie Valley to duplicate the Wildcats' team total of three sub-80 performances, but the end result left Datz wishing for a trade.
"I would rather win the team (title) than the individual (crown)," Datz said of his first tournament victory. "I was very consistent. I hit 15 greens (in regulation) and tried to keep the ball in play."
The Wildcats' team triumph also marked a beguiling conclusion to its last significant tournament round prior to the postseason.
Barely above .500 in its 11 dual meets this season, Neuqua Valley has plenty of hardware to show for its tournament appearances.
"We were a little more relaxed (than in the regular-season match against Waubonsie Valley)," Neuqua Valley coach Spike Grossheusch said. "My team does well in 18-hole tournaments. They thrive in 18-hole matches."
Metea Valley handed Waubonsie Valley its lone loss in divisional play, but the Mustangs' bid for a championship faltered early.
None of its six players were in the 70s; Matt Marsh and Joey Manzari paced the Mustangs' fifth-place result with matching 81s.
Lake Park (330) bettered Metea Valley by a pair of shots for fourth behind a 76 from Vince Palermo.
It was winner-take-all between Batavia, Geneva and the two St. Charles high schools in the River race.
But the early season loss Geneva delivered St. Charles North proved the sole time the North Stars tasted defeat in league play.
Dan Shepherd was electrifying for the North Stars; the senior blitzed St. Andrews' massively sloped greens with 6 birdies.
The North Stars' No. 1 player handed some shots back, but Shepherd fashioned back-to-back 1-under nines for a sterling 69.
It was the lowest score -- from either division -- by 5 shots as St. Charles North earned a double-digit victory, 311-321, over runner-up Geneva.
"It's all about the team," Shepherd said when asked which championship held a deeper sense of satisfaction. "No one person can carry six other guys."
Shepherd admitted his sub-70 round could have been even better.
"I actually missed a lot of short putts for birdies," Shepherd said. "I was just trying to give myself chances."
Raghav Cherala repeated as divisional MVP with his 76 for the North Stars; the junior finished a half-point in front of Shepherd largely as a result of his superlative regular-season play.
"It shows that we're the best team in the (division)," Cherala said. "We had a lot of confidence coming in."
The North Stars ended the three-year (counting the last year of the single-division tournament) conference reign of St. Charles East with its resounding victory.
"(St. Andrews is) a familiar course for us," St. Charles North coach Rob Prentiss said. "(Shepherd) has been a special player for us. He makes great decisions (on the course). I'm going to miss him."
Ryan DalDegan (82) and Matt Samuelson (84) were the final scorers for the North Stars.
Colin Lillibridge (78) was the sole player to break 80 for Geneva, which denied Batavia by 2 shots, 321-323, for runner-up status.
Billy Zwick had an 80 for the Bulldogs' low score.
St. Charles East is looking for consistency as its quest for a fifth consecutive regional championship looms at Larkin in Class 3A play on Tuesday.
"There's still a lot of golf to play," St. Charles East individual runner-up Max Kelly said. "I am headed in the right direction (with my game)."
Kelly fired a 75 for the Saints, who finished fourth with a 329.
Tommy Boyle enters his final phase for Bartlett.
But the Hawks' sextet may end up delaying his retirement as coach after posting a season-low 317 in Valley action.
Cal Fanslow and Cody Lewis garnered all-conference status after matching rounds of 77 to frame the Hawks' total, completed with an 80 from Ryan Wolfe and an 83 by Ryan Vanderbiest.
"That's the story of our year," Boyle said after purveying the Hawks' front-nine make-up match results with Waubonsie Valley, which the Hawks dropped by 6 shots. "We were a fair team this year with a bunch of kids who worked hard. I am very proud of the way they played today."
Lewis authored his low round of the year for Bartlett.
"Starting with that (birdie on my first hole -- the ninth -- of the shotgun start) gave me a confidence boost," Lewis said. "After my first nine holes, I was plus-2. I was feeling good."
Fanslow later duplicated the score of his fellow junior.
"I didn't have any birdies, but you can't complain with 12 pars and 6 bogeys," Fanslow said.
South Elgin finished fourth behind the Hawks in the Valley as Colton Kubovy was one shy of the number necessary for the individual playoff.
"The key to my day was irons and putting," Kubovy said of his season-low 75. "I was hitting a lot of putts smooth, and they had the right speed to fall in at the cup."
The Storm also received counting performances from Victor Miras (81), Andrew Dylo (82) and Jimmy Steininger (84).
Dan Lenz had an 80 to highlight six scores tightly bunched for Larkin, which finished in fifth place in the River.
Eric Hamlin was the low man for sixth-place Streamwood; Nick Turner led Elgin with the Maroons' only nine-hole scores in the 40s.