Downers Grove South sees progress in win at Willowbrook
Even the painless parts of growing pains can be gut-wrenching.
It's been a season-long struggle for Downers Grove South's boys basketball team but Saturday's 70-69 West Suburban Gold win at Willowbrook in Villa Park showed how much the Mustangs have improved with their young group.
Still, it wasn't easy watching explosive Warriors senior standout Everett Stubblefield III race to the basket in the waning seconds with a chance to win the game. Luckily for Downers South, Stubblefield's layup at the buzzer came up just short.
"It's hard to hide the record, but we are getting better," said Mustangs coach Kris Olson. "Our guys battle and we've had no division with our players even with the struggles we've had. Our character shows."
Downers South (7-18, 5-6) was in firm control most of the game despite Willowbrook's Sam Tumilty going off for 31 points and Stubblefield pouring in another 18. The Mustangs led 63-52 with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter after a Jake Dimovski bucket, but the Warriors (11-17, 3-7) stormed back over the next two minutes as Tumilty scored 8 points and Amaris Hughes added another 5 points.
Willowbrook tied it at 65, but couldn't take the lead in two opportunities. Stubblefield hit four straight free throws to keep the score tied before Downers South sophomore Nate Waterman -- who scored 14 points while playing only his second varsity game -- split a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds left to give the Mustangs the 70-69 lead.
Then both sides held their breath as Stubblefield zipped down the court.
"We've lost a lot of close ones, but I really feel like we're coming together now," said Dimovski, who made five 3-pointers and scored 18 points along with Lukian Kling. "All year long our coaches have been telling us we're right there. It was good to get this one. We're looking forward to more of them."
Saturday's game was the latest in a string of heartbreaking losses for Willowbrook, which beat T.F. South on Friday on a pair of Tumilty free throws with 2.8 seconds left.
Just when Willowbrook thought it turned the corner on buzzer-beaters ...
"There's been a lot of these this year," said Warriors coach Chris Perkins. "The sad part is I don't think our record is an indication of what we are this season. I want to say that's at least six games that have been lost at the buzzer. Even if half of them go our way it's a completely different story."