As the hero exited a locker room Monday night, a teammate, Libertyville junior guard Dan Ryan, chirped, "See ya, 'Cheese.' "
The hero's full name: Anthony Mack.
Mack and cheese certainly go well together.
"We all call him that," Ryan said. "Even coach (Scott Bogumil) calls him that."
Mack, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, didn't have to say his nickname - not even for a camera - after host Libertyville edged Palatine 46-45 in a Class 4A boys basketball regional play-in game.
He was already smiling.
Known primarily as a highly energetic defensive wiz, Mack got downright offensive Monday night, tossing in a team-high 13 points to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
The Wildcat hit for 9 points - including a pair of treys - in the third quarter. Mack scored 6 straight points (free throw, bucket, 3-pointer) in the frame to turn a 27-22 deficit into a 28-27 advantage.
"Mack was really active, all night long," said Bogumil, whose 15th-seeded Wildcats (12-15) face No. 3 Barrington (18-10) in a regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Mack also was half of a bluff trap, near midcourt, in the final seconds of the game. Palatine (9-18), down 46-45, inbounded the ball with 3.2 seconds left. Shortly after a Pirate grabbed the pass, Mack and Wildcats senior forward Landon Eyre converged.
But they didn't get too close to the dribbler.
"Just trying to prevent the 80-foot shot," recalled Mack, still smiling.
The game ended on a traveling call.
"Libertyville made a couple of plays down the stretch," said Pirates coach Eric Millstone, whose game bunch made a game of it Monday after trailing 12-4 after one quarter.
"At this time of year," he added, "you have to make plays down the stretch."
Palatine made 3-pointers in the second quarter. Lots of them. Pirates junior forward John Millin (game-high 18 points) nailed two of his team's five lengthy launches.
Palatine outscored the hosts 21-8 to take a 25-20 lead at the break.
The game was tied twice in the final 2:25 of the final quarter.
A free throw from Libertyville senior guard Ryan Barth, at 1:13, was the game-winning point.
Ellis Matthews scored 11 points for the victors, and teammate Griffin Pils netted 8 points and, with 23 ticks left, collected a key steal. Libertyville's Luke Mathewson finished with 7 points and 7 rebounds.
Palatine senior guard Peter Bony struck for 9 points.