Whatever the motivation needed to reach the grand prize, Stevenson's Jeremy Bush found it.
He used it to put the finishing touches on a magnificent career and a second-place team trophy for the Patriots on Saturday in the boys tennis state tournament finals at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
The four-year star came through when it mattered the most, defeating North Suburban Conference rival Peter Tarwid of Lake Forest in the final match of the three-day tournament.
Doing so gave the Patriots the needed point to draw them even with the Scouts for second place in the team standings.
The North Suburban Conference powers both finished with 36 points. Hinsdale Central won the championship for a second straight season, this time with a staggering 59 points. It's the Red Devils' fifth state title since 2007.
"What a perfect way for Jeremy to end his career here -- it's is truly fitting for a player and person of his level and character," said Patriots coach Tom Stanhope, who was just as proud of his doubles team, Colin Harvey/ Andrew Komarov (23-2). They followed the same course as their captain by winning two straight thrillers to garner the fifth-place medal, in a do-or-die match that turned out to be just as important as Bush's.
"We needed to have our No. 1 and Jeremy to win their last two matches of the tournament to draw even with Lake Forest in the team race -- which was no pressure at all," Stanhope said with a wry smile. "Not only were they able to do so -- but Jeremy was able to beat a Lake Forest guy, and someone he had lost to on two previous occasions prior to the tournament."
"I was disappointed after losing in the semis to (Hinsdale Central's Michael) Lorenzini yesterday, but my focus immediately turned from it being all about me to our team, and our chances for a top-two finish," said Bush, who with his three victories on the day finishes with a dazzling 115-28 overall prep record.
Harvey and Komarov, who were top eight here last year, saw their confidence bend but not break following a 6-3, 4-6, 4-6 semifinal loss Saturday morning to the eventual state champ from Hinsdale Central, Eddie Grabill/Harold Martin (25-3). The Red Devils tandem later denied their own teammates, Alex Hagermoser and Peter Henegan (25-2), a second straight title.
"A lot of that result was on me," said Harvey, a sophomore. "I just didn't play as well as I should have, but (Hinsdale) really changed things up in that second set, playing both guys back, and we didn't respond to it very well. But Andrew and I knew we had to put that one past us and go after the next two to help our team and ourselves.
"It was the anniversary of my uncle's death, and I've been thinking about my mother and her brother, so I kind of went out an played for both of them this weekend. And that's all the motivation I needed."
The Patriots duo took care of Oak Park-River Forest's Jeremy Dixon/Graham Lehman (16-3) in their first match after the Hinsdale loss. Then they got on a roller-coaster ride with Lake Forest's John Zordani/Scott Christian (33-3) before netting a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3 victory to walk away with fifth-place.
"It's been a funny year, where my doctor has kept me in play because of a variety of injuries, while Colin has had his share of crazy, goofy injuries as well," said Komarov, whose back-to-back reflex volleys against OPRF began a slow downfall for the talented Huskies duo. "But we survived nine hours of tennis this weekend to get a big win for the team, which is all pretty amazing to me."
During his backdraw journey, Bush defeated Jack Kasbeer (Deerfield) and 3-4 seed Alex Galoustian (New Trier), who somehow got by Warren senior Kristiyan Trukov (37-8) after three long sets.
"Trukov softened up Galoustian for his NSC rival Bush," joked Warren coach Greg Cohen. "There's not much more I can say about Kristiyan that hasn't been said. He came through our kids program and worked incredibly hard to make himself into a fantastic player, who was already a terrific young man. He grew into a sensational leader and role model for others.
"I told him it was 100 percent my fault on Friday that he was late to get back on the court for his third set with Lorenzini, and maybe I was responsible for that third-set loss because of the game-point penalty he was issued. But he never complained or used it as an excuse, because that's the way he is."
Hinsdale Central sophomore Martin Joyce (30-1) outlasted Waubonsie Valley's Eric Marbach (35-1) in three sets to win the singles title and cap a remarkable three days for the Red Devils, who broke the previous record of championship points (56) set by New Trier in 2002. New Trier (29) and Deerfield (21) rounded out the top five.