Palatine shocks Rolling Meadows, wins MSL title for the first time in 30 years

Palatine fans engulfed their team to celebrate the school’s first Mid-Suburban League championship in 30 years.

SHARE Palatine shocks Rolling Meadows, wins MSL title for the first time in 30 years
Palatine basketball players react as they are presented with the trophy after winning the game against Rolling Meadows.

Palatine basketball players react as they are presented with the trophy after winning the game against Rolling Meadows.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Rolling Meadows, which began the season with such high expectations, was covered in agony. Some players hid their faces and others slumped to the floor.

On the other side of the court it was all elation. The visiting Palatine fans engulfed their team to celebrate the school’s first Mid-Suburban League championship in 30 years.

The unexpected scene played out after the Pirates upset No. 13 Rolling Meadows 54-52 on Wednesday night.

Junior Tommy Elter hit the winning shot for Palatine (23-6). It was a driving layup with 40 seconds to play.

“It was a moment, it was all in the moment,” Elter said. “This is just the start of it. On to the playoffs now and it is going to be exciting.”

At the time, it seemed unlikely that Elter’s bucket would be the game-winner. But a Rolling Meadows turnover gave the ball back to the Pirates quickly and then the fouls began.

Palatine missed a free throw with 21 seconds left and the Mustangs had possession again with a chance to win the game.

It was a strange ending. Rolling Meadows star Cam Christie wound up heaving the ball from halfcourt with three seconds left. It hit the backboard and went out of bounds. It appeared to be a shot, but the ball was thrown with a lot of velocity. Christie was looking for a foul to be called, but he didn’t get it.

The Pirates inbounded the ball successfully to claim their first conference title since 1993.

“All we care about is winning,” Palatine junior Connor May said. “We attacked every possession like it was our last. We didn’t care who was across from us. We played as a team, and we like the outcome.”

May, one of the season’s breakout stars, finished with 21 points. Elter added 10 points and eight rebounds and senior Tyler Swierczek scored 11.

“Your best players step up when the lights are brightest and Connor really asserted himself,” Pirates coach Eric Millstone said. “We’ve been riding him all year. The strides he’s made since last year is the main reason why we are where we are right now.”

Palatine jumped out to a 16-2 lead but Christie heated up in the second quarter and the Pirates went into the break up just 24-23.

The game was tied after three quarters and Rolling Meadows took a 52-50 lead on a steal and dunk by Christie with 3:23 left.

“I’m really happy for Palatine,” Mustangs coach Kevin Katovich said. “[Millstone] is a great guy and it has been a long time for them. I’m disappointed in how we played and we turned the ball over too much.”

Christie led Rolling Meadows (25-6) with 26 points and Tsvet Sotirov added 13 points and five rebounds.

The Mustangs are the No. 3 seed in the Class 4A New Trier Sectional. They could face Loyola in the regional final. Palatine is the No. 3 seed at the Barrington Sectional.

“We have a really good group of kids and you want to see good kids get good things,” Millstone said. “It was fun to see the reaction and see them experiences something that not a lot of Palatine teams have experienced.”

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