Matthew Myers and the Willowbrook boys basketball team sat in the locker room in utter disbelief and in a somber mood.
"It was tough," the senior said. "I saw my teammates crying."
After an upset loss to Addison Trail in the regional semifinal last season, Myers and the Warriors knew they wanted things to go different this year.
"I knew today, I didn't want to feel that at all," Myers said.
A hot start, a strong second and third quarters and strong composure helped Willowbrook cruise to a 71-46 win over Metea Valley in a Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinal in Darien.
"(We) talked about the feeling we had last year and made sure we came out harder this year," Willowbrook senior Ethan Schuemer said.
The Warriors (24-5) stressed the importance of not overlooking the Mustangs, especially with a third matchup with conference rival Hinsdale South on the horizon.
"We knew we had to come out and play everyone like they want to win state," Myers said. "Our focus was to get the 'W' today (and) we'll worry about Friday later."
They didn't want a repeat of last year.
"Obviously, with such a good record going into the first round last year, we kind of jumped ahead of ourselves and anticipated a win," Schuemer said. "We kind of figured we would beat Addison Trail so we looked past them and were looking already to the regional championship. So, we definitely didn't want to experience that feeling again."
They showed that out of the gates.
Willowbrook scored on three of its first four possessions and forced Metea Valley into turnovers on it's first four possessions, opening a 12-0 lead with 2 minutes, 22 seconds to play in the first quarter.
"That was a huge momentum builder for the start of the game that obviously helped us throughout the game," Schuemer said. "Coming out strong gives you an extra confidence boost that lasts throughout the game."
It was too much for Metea Valley (16-12) to overcome.
"They took it to us right away," Metea Valley coach Matt Walpole said. "It's just not the type of start you want. We're playing from behind all game and then you have to take some chances."
Willowbrook's defense was stout in the opening 16 minutes. Sikander Zafar drew the assignment of Metea Valley's Ethan Helwig and held him to 6 points, two nights after Helwig helped spark the Mustangs to a win over Lake Park.
"We knew (Helwig) was their guy, we knew we had to stop him," Myers said. "(Zafar) did a good job on him."
Willowbrook limited Metea Valley to 5-of-22 shooting in the first half and forced 13 turnovers to take a 35-14 lead at the half.
"We've been talking about it, that this is playoffs," Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins said. "You just got to come out like that and have every possession with a sense urgency. That's how they came out. Sikander set the tone defensively."
If Zafar set the tone defensively, then Myers set the tone offensively for the Warriors in the first half.
Myers scored 8 of his 15 points, had 2 assists and 2 steals in the first quarter.
Myers' offensive exploits opened up Schuemer in the post in the second quarter. The senior had 22 points and 10 rebounds, with 9 points and 5 rebounds coming in the second quarter.
Schuemer's second quarter opened up Matas Masys, who scored 9 of his 11 points in the third quarter.
"It was awesome," Schuemer said. "We were finding each other, finding the open guys. We played so well together, we were able to move the ball extremely well and just always look up for that open guy."
Cory Adams hit consecutive 3s that cut the deficit to 45-30 with 2:06 to play in the third, but Masys and Scheumer combined to score 8 of the quarter's final 10 points to close any hope of a comeback.
"I liked our fight in the second half," Walpole said, "but at that point you have to do everything right to even be in the game."
Willowbrook and Hinsdale South will meet for the third time this season. Willowbrook won the first game 61-53 and Hinsdale South took the second 69-63.
"We got to come out and play a tough game," Myers said. "They've got a big crowd coming out, they're going to be at home. We got to be ready."