Glenbard West junior Kyle Dell was a bit more relaxed Monday by having his first varsity boys basketball start on his home court.
"We've been running up and down this court a bunch so it really does help shooting at the baskets we've been shooting at in practice," Dell said.
Dell especially found the basket when it mattered most.
His 12 points in the fourth quarter helped the Hilltoppers overcome a 7-point deficit and prevail 56-50 over rival Glenbard South in the opening round of the District 87 Thanksgiving Tournament in Glen Ellyn.
Dell and junior Evan Taylor each had 19 points for the Hilltoppers, whose 11-point run turned a 42-35 deficit with 6:55 left into a 46-42 advantage with 4:07 left.
Senior Nick Dwyer's 3-point shot had brought the Hilltoppers to within 42-40. Dell's 3 put them ahead 44-42 and he followed by converting a fast break following a Taylor steal.
"After (Dwyer's) 3 everyone calmed down and we started playing our game, pushing the ball," Dell said. "It was a slow start (for us). We had to get into it, get used to each other. But we came together and started playing really well."
Glenbard South senior Brandon Whiteside also finished with 19 points. Tommy Powers and reserve Tavion Keith each had 8 and Kevin Enright 7. Glenbard West reserve Dre Thomas had 8 points with back-to-back three-point plays in the third quarter.
Many players joined Dell in making their first varsity starts or playing significant minutes. Taylor, Whiteside and Enright were the only returning starters among the two teams.
Taylor showed his leadership down the stretch with two assists as a playmaker after a 13-point first half. Dell, coming off football, showed excellent conditioning by hardly coming off the court and hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Taking advantage of the double bonus, the Hilltoppers made 11 of 14 to finish 14 of 21 compared with the Raiders' 3 of 6.
"We just switched a few things and started with Ev (Taylor) with the ball in his hands. Just making a few adjustments freed up those kids and Ev made a couple of nice decisions, got the kids the ball in good spots," Hilltoppers coach Tim Hoder said.
"(Earlier) we made some kinds of careless passes. I was just playing a lot of young guys. We made some mistakes that a little more seasoned group won't make."
Glenbard South coach Wade Hardtke would agree. The Raiders led throughout the second and third quarters but never by more than 6 points. Ahead 36-35 entering the fourth quarter, they got two baskets from Whiteside and an inbounds steal and layup from Keith.
"We went cold and they got hot. That's basketball, unfortunately," Hardtke said.
"That's a good ballclub. I think we showed our youth a little bit in the fourth quarter. There was a spell where I thought we started playing not to lose instead of playing to win and then they got to the free-throw line a ton and hit just about all of them."
They closed to 46-45 on Keith's 3-pointer with 3:34 left but only managed a free throw until Whiteside scored the last two baskets in the final 14 seconds.
"There were a load of positives (overall)," Hardtke said. "We don't have a whole lot of minutes coming back. For that to be our first game and most of those guys their first varsity experience, I'm pleased."
The Hilltoppers reduced their turnovers from 11 in the first half to 6 in the second. Hoder also was pleased with his team's 34-19 rebounding advantage, 11-3 in the fourth quarter. Caden Phillips and Taylor had 10 and 7, respectively.
"It was kind of a back-and-forth game. I thought the kids on both of the teams played really hard," Hoder said. "It's a funny game because our kids know all of their kids. They grew up playing football and basketball together. They know each other's games and they competed."