Brown battles, leads WW South to victory
Parker Brown plays basketball with the pent-up effort of a young man desperate to compete.
He practices what he's preached.
Brown, Wheaton Warrenville South's senior guard and quarterback of the football team, was one of the most leading and vocal voices in the "Let Us Play" campaign in Illinois this school year when sports were shut down. He spoke at rallies, and was an active presence on social media.
Now sports are back, and Brown is back to playing like his messy mop of brown hair is on fire.
"It feels so good to get what we put in to get us to play," Brown said. "That leads into why we're going so hard. At any moment it can be taken away from us. When we got out there, we go all in."
Brown was all in on Saturday. He crashed for boards, soared to block shots, made six free throws in the fourth quarter -- and, most importantly, his spectacular rebound and assist to Tyler Fawcett for the go-ahead score in the final minutes paved the way to the Tigers' 41-35 crosstown win over visiting Wheaton North.
When the final seconds ticked off an intense affair, Brown and his teammates mobbed each other at half court.
"We waited for that game all year for us seniors," said Brown, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. "This is the last time playing them at our place, so obviously it's a big game."
Fawcett added 10 points, and Jaylen Brown 6 points with a key charge in the last minute for WW South (6-2, 3-1). Connor Haake scored 14 points for Wheaton North (4-2, 2-2), but sat the last four minutes with an ankle injury.
Haake scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half, but Parker Brown's 3-pointer -- WW South's fifth -- sent the Tigers into halftime up 24-23, and they took a 29-27 lead to the fourth quarter. Troy Hegranes' free throw with 3:48 left gave Wheaton North its last lead, 34-33.
At the other end, Brown soared high for an offensive rebound, then whistled a pinpoint pass to Fawcett for the go-ahead layup and 36-35 lead with 2:13 left.
"I just crashed the boards," Brown said. "Coach tells us go after every loose ball, we try to do that and I saw Fawcett behind me and gave it to him. Even if I'm hitting shots or not hitting shots, I'm going to crash the boards and do whatever I can for our team to get extra possessions."
WW South coach Mike Healy, as much as anybody, appreciates that kind of effort. Brown's had some big shooting nights already on the young season, but that is not what defines him as a player. He only took six shots Saturday, but he rebounds like few guards do and his impact was everywhere.
"Find somebody that plays harder than he does," Healy said. "He's just all over the place. He made plays when we needed it."
Wheaton North, meanwhile, went scoreless over the last three minutes. In the final minute the Falcons turned it over, stole a pass in the backcourt, but missed a layup for the lead. After two Parker Brown free throws, Jaylen Brown drew a charge.
"We just couldn't finish around the basket," Falcons coach Dave Brackmann said. "We had our opportunities. They do a good job when you get near the basket of getting in front of you. I thought that we played really well tonight against a team that is returning a lot of experience. I told the kids I'm super disappointed in the result but super proud of the effort."
It didn't help having one of Brackmann's most experienced kids, and leading scorer, Haake on the bench with his ankle in ice.
"We lost our best player in the last few minutes and that didn't help," Brackmann said. "Obviously that's the most crucial minutes. That hurt us."
Healy's Tigers shot just 4-for-16 in the second half, but he'll take the effort defensively that WW South hangs its hat on.
"We fight ourselves offensively a little bit, but they made plays," Healy said. "We've said that the one thing we can control is our effort and we feel we're undefeated so far there. Defensively we found a way to make plays at the end."