Leyden hangs on to down Willowbrook
Maybe boys basketball players aren't quite in midseason athletic form, but they're getting closer.
That should make for some interesting games heading down the stretch to the March 13 finish line.
Take Friday's game between Willowbrook and visiting Leyden for example, a contest the Eagles won 53-50.
Leyden outrebounded the Warriors 34-31, with sophomore forward Andrew Mann corralling 12 of them, while senior center Jonathan Chavez had 8, along with 16 points.
But consider the fact that 20 of Willowbrook's boards were on the offensive end. And not only that; sophomore guard Noah Campbell scored 9 of his 11 points with 6:32 left in the game. Those 11 points led the Warriors, while junior Marquel Saleek added 10.
The point: The players are starting to get their legs back, not to mention their shooting touch. Leyden junior guard Jiovanny Garcia led all scorers with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.
"With quarantine and all that, we were slowing down," Campbell said. "I think we're getting into shape."
Across the court, his Leyden counterpart agreed.
"We're getting everything back, athleticism, just hitting shots, getting open looks and making wide-open layups," Garcia said. "I feel like I'm getting more confident."
Don't the impression that everything is hunky dory, though.
Leyden coach Bill Heisler said the level of his team's play is improving, but there was the matter of 23 turnovers, almost evenly split across four quarters.
Those could have come back to haunt them. Campbell's 3 from the right corner with 37.5 seconds left cut the Leyden lead in half to 51-48 and it looked like Willowbrook might squeak by.
"I think what's happened is, they're now in shape so we're at a faster pace than we were in the beginning," Heisler said. "We're sloppy with it. We've got to be tighter with the basketball."
Chavez said getting into playing shape had to take into consideration the masks that all players now wear. That was tough, he said.
"At first, it was really a struggle during practice and early games," he said. "Now we're doing pretty good."
You'd think all those rebounds would have been gathered by the big men like Chavez, who stands 6-foot-6. Not so. Senior point guard Matt Espinoza grabbed five, while Willowbrook junior guard Terrell Walker, who stands about 6-foot, had 7 rebounds in the second quarter alone -- three on the offensive end. Another Warriors guard of similar stature, junior Alexander Simmons had 6 boards, 5 offensive.
"I wouldn't say midseason, but maybe three or four weeks in, I'd say definitely our guys are in shape, without the lag coming in," Willowbrook coach Ryan Tyszkiewicz.
Leyden improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the West Suburban Gold, while Willowbrook fell to 1-4 overall and in league.