Steve Wit has been in big situations before.
The new Glenbard North girls basketball coach was a two-time NAIA All-America basketball player at Taylor University and also played professionally in the United Kingdom and France.
That's probably why he had a calm demeanor when the Panthers opened their 2017-18 campaign Tuesday night, even though things got a little dicey in the fourth quarter of their 48-37 victory over Willowbrook.
The pesky Warriors nearly completely reversed a 34-27 deficit at the end of the third quarter with a 10-4 run to start the fourth. They only got as close as 1 point, though, as Glenbard North ended the game with a 10-0 run -- all on free throws. In fact the Panthers went 10 for 12 from the line in the last 3:16.
Doing the most damage was senior forward Lauren Lee, who hit all six of her free throws en route to a double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
So did Wit have the jitters in his first varsity coaching experience?
"Me personally, no, I don't feel like I did," Wit said. "I know some of the girls did, but I've been around basketball for a long time. I've been excited about this. This is a role I've seen myself in. I'm excited to share the things basketball has taught me over the years."
It wasn't all fun and games for Wit. The Panthers shot a dismal 22.2 percent from the field and hit just a single field goal in the fourth quarter. They also made just 1 of 11 3-point attempts.
That performance nearly cost them the game, as Willowbrook executed its press to start the fourth quarter and simultaneously put together its 10-4 run, capped by a steal and a layup at 3:22 by junior Katelyn McCann. Suddenly, the Warriors were within 38-37 and had a chance to take the lead. But McCann missed a pair of free throws.
They didn't score again. Meanwhile, the free throws dropped like rain for the Panthers in the last 3:16 and handed Wit his first win.
"We didn't really hit our shots, but our free throws got us through the game," Lee said. "We want to work on our shooting a little bit, but just because it's the first game, I think with more practice we'll knock down our shots more and rely on our shots more than free throws."
Across the court, despite the loss, McCann could feel pleased that she led all scorers with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. She also added 5 rebounds. What did she learn about her team Tuesday?
"We definitely have a lot of improvement, but I think for the first game we played pretty good together," she said. "We have a lot of stuff to work on."
That was echoed by her coach, Terry Harrell, who was upbeat about the prospects of this team.
"I learned we can play defense," Harrell said. "We can apply some pressure. We do a good job at that. We need a little more work in terms of thinking in the game, because the things we took advantage of in the second half were there in the first half, but we were just rushing.
"Once we talked to them, made adjustments at halftime, they played very well in the second half and we got back in the game."