Coming into this season, Elk Grove boys basketball coach Anthony Furman knew that his teams experience would help it in tight conference battles.
It didnt take long for that hypothesis to be proved correct.
The Grenadiers got terrific second-half performances from seniors Austin Amann, Kishan Patel and Brian Kelly, and that was just enough to get by Luke Potnick and Buffalo Grove 72-68 in overtime in the Mid-Suburban East opener for both teams.
Trailing most of the game, Elk Grove (3-2, 1-0) erased a 9-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime, and their veterans took over from there.
Patel began the extra frame with a drive to the hole for a 62-60 lead.
After Steve Soifer, who scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime, scored from in close, Amann (team-high 20 points, 15 rebounds) knocked down Elk Groves first 3-pointer of the night with 2:57 remaining.
Potnick answered with a jumper but Amann came right back with a baseline floater for a 67-64 lead and then found Bryan Alcazar on the next possession for a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left to all but end things.
The experience we had last year rolled over in a tight game at the end, Furman said. It was huge.
We got back to the basics in the fourth and overtime and thats what helped us come back, Amann said.
BG (2-3, 0-1) built an 11-point third quarter lead behind Potnick, who scored 12 of his game-high 35 in the quarter.
Thats how we have to play, said BG coach Ryan OConnor. Obviously we run everything through him, for the most part. Other guys have to stay active offensively.
But Patel, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, willed his team back into the game.
His layup to open the fourth quarter cut the lead to 7 and two buckets from Kelly (14 points, 9 rebounds) sandwiched around a pair of Amann free throws cut the lead to two with 5:41 left in the game.
We really got lackadaisical defensively, OConnor said. We gave up some easy shots. Not only were they able to get back in the game but they were able to seize momentum from that point on.
Joell Melendez had 8 points and the 5-foot-10 Alcazar played huge in grabbing 9 rebounds, part of a 43-21 edge for the Grenadiers.
In yet another standout performance, Potnick hit 12 of 28 shots and was a perfect 9-9 from the line despite having Patel and Alcazar covering him tightly all night. The seniors off-balance jumper at the end of the first quarter tied the game at 15-15 and his 3 free throws gave BG their biggest lead at 44-33 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
Hes tough, Furman said. Its good to see him healthy. Now to see him as a senior, hes filled out and strong.
Andrew Apel had 13 points and 6 rebounds for BG.