John Bongiorno did not become Maine West's boys basketball coach until mid-August, well after summer leagues and workouts had concluded.
The big-picture goal was to build a program, but not at the expense of the 2013-14 season.
"To put in a system top to bottom takes a while," Bongiorno said. "But I told the kids at the beginning of the season I wasn't going to give up the season as a transition year. Every kid deserves a great senior year, and we wanted to give that to them."
Seven of Bongiorno's 10 varsity players were seniors, and their season concluded only after putting a scare into heavily favored Loyola in the Class 4A Maine West Regional final Friday night.
Senior Jamal Sherman scored all 24 of his points after halftime, including a buzzer-beater that forced overtime, but Loyola held on for a 70-64 victory.
"He had two fouls in the first two minutes and we tried to get through the rest of the first half without him," Bongiorno said. "We were down 11 at halftime, and he just took over in the third quarter. He was phenomenal. It was fun to watch."
The Ramblers joined Maine South, Evanston and New Trier in advancing to this week's Maine South Sectional, while Maine West finished the season at 12-16.
"We were up and down," Bongiorno said. "We're a jump-shooting team, and you're going to have nights when you don't shoot well. We had some big wins and some losses. If we were an NCAA team, you'd say they were bad losses for our resume.
"It was my first year and it took a while for everyone to buy into what we wanted to do. We have the whole summer now, and hopefully things will improve."
Maine South's success is becoming routine. The Hawks (24-6) won their third straight regional title and fourth in five years by beating Niles West 69-33 in a semifinal and Niles North 70-45 in the final.
They figure to be among the area's top teams again next year with the return of juniors George Sargeant and Caleb deMarigny and sophomore Jon Arenas.