Phillips leads Glenbard West to title game
Glenbard West's Diallo Phillips learned the importance of patience last season.
By his own admission, Phillips rarely played for the Hilltoppers during his junior year.
That's no longer the case for the new-look Hilltoppers.
Phillips scored a team-high 14 points in a 58-45 victory over district rival Glenbard North on the third day of the Glenbard West Holiday Classic on Thursday. Phillips said his friend, former Glenbard West star guard Evan Taylor, helped him stay focused last season.
Sophomore forward Braden Huff poured in 13 points and sophomore Paxton Warden added 10. The Hilltoppers (10-1) play De La Salle in Friday's 7:45 p.m. championship.
"Last year it was more of a learning time for me," Phillips said. "I took it as a learning experience. Evan and me would talk a lot about developing. I just didn't get much time. I have such a joy for the game, so I kept my head high and stayed positive."
On a team filled with youth and length, Phillips shined taking the ball to the basket or spotting up for 3-pointers against the Panthers. He hit a late second quarter 3 to slow a Glenbard North (4-8) rally for a 34-25 halftime lead.
The 6-foot Phillips helped put the game out of reach by hitting a 3 and scoring on a drive to extend Glenbard West's lead to 49-30 in the final minutes of the third. Phillips admitted he finds himself in a rare position as a senior leader with limited varsity experience before this season on a team with potential to make a run in the playoffs.
"I worked hard every day in the summer to prepare (for this season)," Phillips said. "We have a some really good bigs that stretch the floor. We have a very solid team this year and have a great relationship and we all love winning."
Glenbard West first-year coach Jason Opoka said Phillips is an integral player for his team.
"Diallo has always been a tough kid," he said. "He learned a lot last year from sitting, observing and listening. He's a coachable kid. This year it was his time to kind of step up and be a leader on this team. So far, he's been doing that."
The Hilltoppers scored the first six points and their lead swelled to 11-3 following a 3-pointer by Huff. With a 28-12 lead, the Hilltoppers rarely were threatened until the Panthers scored 11 straight points to cut the gap to 28-23.
But Glenbard West answered by closing out half with two 3-pointers, and then opened the third by reeling off seven points in a row for a 41-25 lead.
Glenbard North struggled shooting the ball all game, rarely stringing together baskets besides their short run in the second quarter. Jerry Abushanab had 11 points for the Panthers.