If there’s one sequence that defines Kyle Bolger, it was in the third quarter of his final high school game, a regional final loss to Oak Park-River Forest.
After one of Bolger’s patented moves — the one where he drives, gets his body into a defender to create space and pivots before leaning in towards the basket and softly banking the ball home — his mind quickly fast-forwarded to the next play.
Just four seconds later, Bolger was jumping over the Huskies bench, attempting to break up a lead pass, an incident that resulted in a badly sprained ankle.
Clearly, basketball is about so much more than just scoring to Bolger.
It’s about winning, and more specifically, making winning plays.
Bolger did plenty of that in his three-year career at Schaumburg, helping the Saxons go 61-28 over that span, including two sectional final appearances, three Mid-Suburban West crowns and two MSL titles.
This season, he was named MSL West player of the year, and it’s time to add one more honor: Captain of the Daily Herald’s all-area team.
“He’s just a workhorse,” said teammate and fellow three-year starter Jimmy Lundquist. “Someone who gives you 100 percent every time he steps on the court. That’s why I loved to go to battle with him every week. I knew he wouldn’t take a play off.”
That was especially true in big games, when Bolger would routinely rise to the occasion.
The senior point guard averaged 15.6 points and 2.4 assists this year, and when the stage was the biggest, there was no stopping him.
He scored 20 of his team’s 39 points in a sectional championship loss to Proviso East last year and had 19 of the team’s 30 points in the season-ending loss to OPRF. His 24-point, 4-assist gem of a performance picked apart Prospect and helped the Saxons become just the seventh repeat MSL champion.
“That’s a characteristic of the best players,” said Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh. “Kyle always seemed to play his best in the biggest moments.”
Bolger stands 6-foot-1 and doesn’t have the same speed as someone like teammate Cole Reyes, but he continually got to the basket using an array of moves not seen often at the high school level.
It’s the crafty mentality developed from growing up competing against an older brother like Brandon Bolger, an all-area player for Schaumburg in 2008 who Kyle calls “a great person and still the guy I look up to most.”
With five years on his younger brother, Brandon would always beat Kyle in 1-on-1, something that helped Kyle realize he had to be smarter than those bigger and more athletic defenders.
“I had to figure out how to get that something extra, whatever I needed to win,” Bolger said. “You try to find out those different moves. If your opponent has an advantage, like my brother was super fast, I had to figure out something to do where I had an advantage.”
Bolger cracked the starting lineup from the beginning of his sophomore year and while he wasn’t the star as an underclassmen with guys like 2012 All-Area captain Christian Spandiary in the same lineup, he earned his keep by playing a hard-nosed brand of basketball.
That grittiness would define Bolger’s career.
After he separated his clavicle bone from his sternum near the end of his junior season, he returned just in time for the playoffs.
“The third play of the first playoff game that year, he took a charge right to the chest,” Lundquist said. “I’m looking at him like, ‘What are you doing?’ But that’s just who he is.”
“Kyle’s toughness is unmatched,” Walsh said of his team captain who also played the final month of this season with a bad back. “He dealt with some injuries and setbacks throughout his career and that never slowed him down. He was as dependable as any player that I’ve ever coached. His toughness, work ethic and sheer will to win were just unbelievable.”
This season, preseason expectations seem to weigh on the Saxons, and after starting the year 4-4, Bolger and Lundquist organized a players-only meeting that lasted more than two hours.
“We knew something needed to be done,” Bolger said. “And nothing was going to get done sitting around doing the same stuff.
“Early in the season, we weren’t playing as one. We weren’t doing it together. As the year went on, it definitely got better and we were clicking together, especially when it counted.”
Their season may have turned on Dec. 29, when they sat in their locker room at Hinsdale South during halftime, locked in a 24-24 tie with Minooka.
On the surface, the seventh place game at the Hinsdale South Holiday Tournament meant nothing to the outside observer. But at the same time, it meant everything to a Schaumburg squad that had blown late leads in overtime losses to Brother Rice and Providence Catholic in their previous two games and faced the prospect of going into a 13-day layoff on a three-game losing streak.
So how did Bolger respond? He scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to will the Saxons to a 50-44 come-from-behind victory.
From there, Schaumburg (19-10) rattled off 11 wins in its next 13 games, including six straight within the division to win the West outright for the second consecutive season.
It was just a sample of the late season magic that seemed to surround the program in the last four years, and it probably would have continued even further this season had Bolger not sprained his ankle against OPRF and been forced to play on one leg in crunch time.
Bolger, who has a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale and a 24 ACT, has drawn interest from every local Division III school, as well as some Division II schools and Division I Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
“Whatever school Kyle decides to go to, some school is going to be awfully happy and fortunate to have a person and play like Kyle in their program,” Walsh said. “He’ll find a way to help that program succeed.”
With how involved he is in sports now, Bolger sees himself majoring in sports management or sports marketing in college and one day either coaching or being an athletic director.
But for now, Bolger can enjoy all of the success of the last four years that he shared with his closest friends.
“It’s amazing looking back at it,” Bolger said. “When it happens, it’s just crazy because that’s what we’ve always worked for. We’ve worked so hard. Seeing those things being accomplished after all of the hard work and everything we’ve been through, it’s an amazing feeling.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.