Huff's double-double paces Glenbard West in win over York
Every basketball player in Illinois is eager to get back on the court, but Braden Huff maybe had a little extra motivation.
He's waited a while.
Huff, Glenbard West's 6-foot-10 junior, missed the last eight games of a stellar sophomore season with a dislocated elbow. Then, like the rest of the state, he waited while the coronavirus pandemic delayed this season more than three months. And then the Hilltoppers had their season-opener Friday with Glenbard East postponed.
"I was eager," Huff said. "It's been more than a year since I was able to play in a real basketball game. Obviously, we were uncertain about even having a season, so I was excited."
Huff played like it. He posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and was part of a stifling defensive effort in Glenbard West's surprisingly one-sided 51-22 win over York on Saturday at Biester Gym in Glen Ellyn.
The game, a nonconference matchup between West Suburban Silver rivals scheduled in the last couple days, had its pandemic-specific oddities.
Both teams wore masks, a state requirement. There were no fans, a conference decision. When the teams cleared the gym for halftime, the roar of the heater could be heard in the eerie quiet. Before the game, the two teams circled the gym, socially-distant, for the anthem.
"We were just trying to space out because of COVID; it's a crazy year," Huff said. "We're trying to stay safe."
The Hilltoppers gained separation out of a 23-15 halftime lead.
Huff scored eight of his 15 points in the third quarter, keying a 14-2 run out of the break. Huff, showing an expanded game with 15 pounds of added muscle, scored on a drive while absorbing contact, muscled in a follow shot, then made a nifty scoop shot off a spin in the lane.
"Over quarantine, it's given me time to get stronger," Huff said. "Last year, teams were physical with me."
Caden Pierce scored eight of his 12 points after halftime, and Paxton Warden added 10 points. Warden, fouled on a 3-pointer, converted the 4-point play for a 37-17 lead. Meanwhile, Glenbard West's defense held York to just 7 points after halftime.
"We've matured," Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. "We got bigger, we got stronger, and we dedicated ourselves to the weight room and improved on the deficiencies we had last year. We loved our defense throughout the game, especially the third quarter."
York, which had nine official practices under its belt with first-year coach Mike Dunn, missed its first 7 shots of the game -- and it didn't get much better. The Dukes were only 3-for-21 from the 3-point line, and struggled with Glenbard West'e length and 1-3-1 zone.
Alex Sherman scored 6 points to pace the Dukes, who graduated standout guard Nate Shockey off last year's 28-win team.
"I think every coach would say the same thing, we're excited to be back," Dunn said. "We have to get through the weekend, stay safe and healthy, get back to practice Monday and get back at it -- and we have to knock down some shots. That's the bottom line. You have to put the ball in the basket to win basketball games."
The game was quite the reversal of the last meeting between the two teams, a 53-25 York win last January in Elmhurst. And it perhaps showed the growth of Glenbard West and its stellar junior class, led by Huff and Pierce.
"Last year they definitely gave it to us," Huff said. "They're still a really good team, but we have grown a lot. We were pretty young last year."