When the ball goes through the hoop as often as Glenbard North made it happen Friday night, the game of basketball sounds so easy.
"We hit a lot of shots. We hit a lot of shots," said Panthers forward Chip Flanigan, who made 10 of them.
Glenbard North needed all 31 baskets, including 13 3-pointers, to beat West Aurora on its senior night. Leading by 13 points to start the fourth quarter and by 10 with little more than a minute left, Glenbard North held off a Blackhawks rush to win 83-81 in Aurora.
Combined with Naperville Central's win over Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard North created a three-way tie atop the DuPage Valley Conference, each team 9-2 in the league with three games remaining.
"When you come into a hostile environment like their home court you've got to be able to shoot the ball well. And we did," said Glenbard North coach Joe Larson, whose team scored the most points West Aurora's allowed all season.
"We've got to shoot better free throws down the stretch, but I can't say enough, I'm so proud of the guys," Larson said.
Flanigan hit three 3s and scored 24, tying for team honors with guard Jeremiah Fleming, who sank six 3-pointers, including one just before the third-quarter buzzer to earn a 66-53 lead.
"We couldn't get no stops," said West Aurora forward Roland Griffin.
The Panthers' Pasquale Fiduccia, out injured when West Aurora (17-5) beat them on Jan. 10, made three 3s and scored 13 points and Justin Jackson added 12.
"Everybody just set good screens and stuff, and we've got Chip driving to the basket," Fleming said. "He's, like, constantly looking for people to kick it out. They have to help in on him, so if my guy's helping out on him he kicks it out to me and I hit 3s and stuff."
West Aurora guard Jontrell Walker, the Blackhawks' sole scorer in a slow-starting first quarter they trailed 17-9, established a new program scoring record. Grabbing a long rebound off his own miss, the 6-foot-1 senior sank a 3-pointer from the left wing with 8.9 seconds remaining in the game to surpass Juwan Starks with 1,629 points.
Walker couldn't do it alone. That showed the entire first half, scoring 20 points while Glenbard North led 38-28.
"We've been practicing real slow and that's the way we came out," said West Aurora point guard Matt Dunn, who scored 8. "And we didn't start picking it up until the second half. If we'd have played like that the whole game I think we would have been in a lot better position than what we ended up in."
Its hustle challenged by coach Gordie Kerkman and staff, West Aurora (17-5) responded with a 53-point second half, including Tommy Koth with 8 and Griffin with 20 after Jackson held him scoreless the first half.
"I knew he'd come back in the second half and do good because he's a great player," Jackson said. "But being able to keep him down in the first half really helped us to jump out to that lead."
Glenbard North led 80-70 with 1:19 left in the game but Walker forced the issue with three 3-pointers as the home crowd came alive.
Leading 83-81 with three seconds left, Larson called a timeout to design an inbounds play from under West Aurora's basket. Dunn nearly stole the ball but Jackson gained control and heaved the ball downcourt as time expired.
"I thought they played an outstanding game," Kerkman said of Glenbard North. "And for us to come back and get within two points at the end, I give our kids credit. They didn't quit. They played hard. I didn't say they played good, but they played hard."