Glenbard North entered Friday's DuPage Valley Conference opener at West Chicago having a full roster for the first time this season.
The Panthers welcomed back five players from the state runner-up football team, including Justin Jackson, Ryan Storto, Kendall Holbert, Robert Collier and Brett Gasiorowski.
Jackson, Storto and Holbert combined for 30 points and several big plays down the stretch en route to a 56-51 overtime victory against the Wildcats.
"We got everyone back at practice on Wednesday and it really added some energy," Glenbard North coach Joe Larson said. "Obviously, we've got to shake some of the rust off, but I thought the guys that came in off the football field stepped up."
Glenbard North (2-2, 1-0) looked anything but rusty in the first quarter while storming out to an 18-7 lead powered by a 12-2 run to end the quarter. However, the Wildcats' zone defense, combined with the play of junior guard John Konchar, helped keep West Chicago close.
Konchar's buzzer-beating lay-in trimmed the Wildcats' deficit to 29-25 heading into halftime as the junior led all scorers with 25 points for the game.
"We had to slow the game down," West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said of the zone defense. "When you give up 18 points in the first quarter, something's not right. The guys communicated well tonight, and that's the key to any defense."
West Chicago took its first lead of the game with 2:15 left in the third quarter on a fadeaway in the lane by Mike Zajac and held a 34-33 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers however, led for much of the final five minutes of regulation. Chavares Flanigan gave Glenbard North its largest lead of the fourth quarter with a driving lay-in to put his team up 44-40 with 1:50 left. He finished with 17 points.
West Chicago grinded its way into overtime, first by cutting the lead to 44-42 when Konchar fed the ball to a cutting Jimmy Rizzo, who scored 14 points, with 52 seconds left. Then, after Jackson missed the first of a 1-and-1 free throw situation, the Wildcats called a timeout with 22 seconds left to draw up the final play of regulation.
A potential game-tying 3-pointer from the baseline missed the mark, but Zajec was there to grab the rebound and put it back in with four seconds left, tying the game at 44 apiece and sending it to overtime.
In the overtime period the football players came through as Storto, who scored 14 points, connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the night, while Holbert scored 4 of his 8 points and had a steal in those final five minutes. Jackson also found Holbert wide open under the basket to extend the Panthers lead to 53-48 with a minute left.
"When I came here to be the coach, I said that I'm not looking to see how close we can be in these games, but that I came here to win them," Recchia said. "We're getting there, but we're not going to be happy until we get over that hump."