Glenbard West celebrates as state champion Hilltoppers bring home the hardware
Green-clad cheering students, families and community members packed the Fred L. Biester gymnasium on the campus of Glenbard West High School Sunday to welcome home their dominant Hilltoppers of the hardwood.
It's the first boys basketball state championship team in the century-long history of the Glen Ellyn public school. In fact, Glenbard West's wire-to-wire 56-34 victory over Whitney Young Saturday night in Champaign marks the first boys basketball state title from DuPage County since Hinsdale did it in 1909.
"The community support is crazy. I mean, we're so thankful for everything, for everyone coming out, and they played a huge part in our success," Caden Pierce, a senior guard, said after the rally. "We're just so thankful for everyone out there."
Pierce and his teammates entered the darkened gym with spotlight introductions through a corridor of cheerleaders holding pom-poms and family members giving high-fives.
Pierce, who has committed to play basketball at Princeton, and fellow senior Braden Huff, a Gonzaga recruit, took to the microphone to thank their fans and reflect on the historic season, after similar messages from coach Jason Opoka and athletic director Joe Kain.
The 40-minute celebration concluded when confetti cannons of sparkling green and silver pieces reigned on the team and onto the gymnasium floor amid the playing of "We Are the Champions" on the sound system. Youngsters clamored to get autographs from the players, who made it to the mountaintop -- err, hilltop -- seven years after they started playing together in middle school.
"The most important part of our team is we just love and care about each other so much. And that's what makes us so special," Pierce said. "We don't care who has the success. It's just all about the team goal in the end. The bonds I formed with these guys I'll remember forever."
• Photographer Patrick Kunzer and staff writer Kevin Schmit contributed to this report.