Palatine downs Hersey for first regional title since 2015

Palatine coach Eric Millstone can successfully give you a frame of reference when talking about postseason play.

It is all about being able to both survive and advance as his team was successfully able to in holding off Hersey 64-57 to win the Conant Class 4A regional in Hoffman Estates Friday Night.

The win earned Palatine a spot in Wednesday's Elgin sectional semifinal vs. Lake Zurich. The No. 3 seeded Bears (22-8) defeated MSL East champ Rolling Meadows 61-45 Friday to win its regional crown.

"Any team you play this time of year is going to be a good team, so we're fortunate (to win)." Millstone said as he witnessed his team accept the regional championship plaque-- the 14th in the program's history and first since 2015 (his second) when it ironically beat Huskies on their home floor.

Like growing a crop on a farm, the No. 2 seeded Pirates (25-8) got things off to successful start as they took command in the opening quarter of play by bolting out of the gate with a 19-9 advantage on the strength of 9 of senior forward Connor May's game-high 28 points.

That lead saw its roots strengthened by a solid inside effort from 6-4 sophomore Tony Balanganayi who tallied 8 of his 15 in half number one to put the back-to-back MSL champions up 34-25 at the break.

Palatine would take a 53-37 lead into the final frame that would get to 61-43 with 3:56 remaining when Balanganayi found May for a stuff.

Tenth-seeded Hersey (16-15) would then embark on a furious and frenetic pace which saw them go an 14-3 tear the rest of the way as 6-3 sophomore swingman Charlie Pomis (team-high 22 points) and 6-7 junior center Jackson Hupp (17 points) each scored twice in the late rally.

Senior forward Tommy Elter and 5-10 junior Carter Monroe each added 8 points for the Pirates who also outrebounded Hersey 36-22 led by 15 boards from May, 8 by Balanganayi, and Elter with 7.

Huskies interim coach Dave Hess had guided them to 8 wins in their last 12 heading into the contest which included a fourth-quarter rally in Wednesday's regional semifinal versus host Conant that they eventually won in overtime.

He spoke of the tremendous honor and pride he had in the team that he had been appointed to lead last summer.

"We get into education to serve kids and I was fortunate. This program meant a lot to me. Coach Don Rowley--I played for him. When we didn't know what was going on (last summer) and they asked me (to be Head Coach). (It's) a tremendous honor and it's something you don't take lightly. You feel that's your duty. The coaches before me set the stage. You don't do anything by yourself so I try the best I can with the experience (I have). Apply that so that your job is to continue to move them forward and improve."

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