Glenbard South captures UEC championship
Brandon Malone immediately darted toward midcourt, leaping high up in the air to jump into a large throng of students to kick off the postgame celebration on Wednesday night in Glen Ellyn.
Malone had several ups and downs in the winner-take-all matchup with East Aurora for the Upstate Eight Conference title.
Malone scored four points in the final minute and grabbed a key defensive rebound during the final seconds to finish with 18 points, leading the Raiders to a thrilling 60-56 victory. Aryton Temcio poured in 14 points and Cade Hardtke had 9 points for the Raiders to offset a 24-point game by East Aurora junior Jacques Kelly.
With the win Glenbard South (23-4, 15-2) secured its first conference championship since 2009.
"We did it," Malone said, wearing a piece of the net over his left ear. "We put in so much work for this. (Glenbard South) had a tremendous year last year, but almost all their starters left, and nobody thought we could do it. We all came together, played hard and did it. This was a good statement."
Malone, a transfer from St. Joseph, had many celebratory moments on the court after big plays in the fourth quarter, but nothing topped jumping up and down with his teammates and the student body.
Malone overcame a few tough moments in the third quarter with a powerful fourth-quarter effort. Early in the third quarter, Malone missed a breakaway dunk to earns some jeers from the large East Aurora crowd. A few minutes later, Malone had his layup attempt blocked, then the East Aurora defender grabbed the loose ball and threw it off Malone.
Malone bounced back in the fourth quarter, when the Raiders needed it most. He tallied three baskets and two free throws in the final five minutes to ward off a late rally by the Tomcats to extend the Raiders' winning streak to 13 games.
Malone scored on a putback basket to tie the score at 54-54 with 1:55 left, then was fouled after making a layup off a Eurostep move and hit the free throw to give the Raiders a 57-54 edge with 50.2 seconds remaining. He snared a defensive rebound and made 1 of 2 free throws with 3.7 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The Raiders kept their season-long theme of winning close games by outscoring the Tomcats 8-2 in the final 2:40. Glenbard South's last five games have been decided by four points or less.
"It's been a special season, and I stopped trying to figure these guys out a long time ago and just decided to ride the wave," Glenbard South coach Wade Hardtke said. "They somehow keep figuring out a way to win games. That's a heck of an East Aurora team. They are crazy athletic."