Hinsdale South up to challenge from Wheaton North
With nine of its 10 wins coming by double digits, Hinsdale South hadn't been pushed all that often coming into Saturday.
But with a physical Wheaton North team providing a stiff test in the quarterfinals of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, the Hornets passed with flying colors.
Putting three players into double figures, led by the 17 points of James Ruzicka, Hinsdale South stayed undefeated with a 61-52 victory over the Falcons.
"We know that Wheaton North was a really good basketball team," said Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore, whose team advances to Monday's semifinals of the 32-team event. "They are as good as any top-four, top-eight team we will see anywhere. And we knew they would play more physical in the half court then anybody we will see all year.
"Outside of Bobby (Durkin), we couldn't really make anything tonight. A lot of that is because they make you work so hard. But we pride ourselves this year on finding ways to win."
The younger Durkin sank four 3-pointers on his way to 14 points. Two of those came in the opening quarter as the Hornets jumped out to an 18-9 lead that they would never relinquish.
"We have four or five guys who at any point can take over a quarter or make big shots," said the sophomore Durkin. "A lot of guys weren't hitting tonight, but we found other ways to score."
The big difference in the game came at the free-throw line, where Hinsdale South (11-0) connected on 19-of-23 attempts, including a perfect 11-of-11 performance from Ruzicka. The Hornets made 10 down the stretch to deny the Falcons any chance of a comeback.
"I love it when games are close," said Ruzicka, who had 3 steals. "It's a lot more fun. I love that competitiveness and it's always fun to play good teams.
"I think the best part (of this team) is if you have an off game, you know your teammates will pick you up."
Wheaton North (6-5), whose previous four losses had come by a combined 15 points, pulled to within 25-23 by halftime thanks to an 8-point second quarter by Garrett Horner.
The Falcons then got the deficit to one in the third but never got over the hump. Horner finished with 15 points as did Ben Bonga. Xander Mueller chipped in 11 points.
Aaron Tims added 14 points for Hinsdale South and Billy Durkin had 9.
"We played well," Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said, "but we made some mistakes that prevented us from getting over the top. Our guys fought hard. The last three days, I feel like we have taken a step forward. Now the next step forward is the hardest step.
"I'm disappointed we lost, but not disappointed with how we played."