Mielke leads Downers Grove North to big win
The grin on senior Jack Mielke's face made it very clear that it was going to take more than a pandemic to ruin Downers Grove North's 2020-2021 basketball campaign.
The talented 6-foot-7 forward had just tallied a game-high 19 points and helped knock off previously unbeaten Glenbard West 59-49 on the second to the last day of this virus-shortened season, and Mielke knew that he and his teammates had surely made the best of the tough situation.
"I love every minute of this. In mid-January when we thought our season wouldn't take place, I was heartbroken," he said. "So even if it's just 14 or so games, we're happy to have it."
Friday's West Suburban Conference showdown pitted two teams that came in with just one combined loss and, fittingly, the game was tied 32-32 after three quarters of play. But the host Trojans (12-1) were relentless on both ends of the floor in the final eight minutes, which opened with a 3-pointer from Nate Demos that jump started a 16-2 charge for a 48-34 lead with just over three minutes left to play.
"They're a darn good team," said Mielke, who spent much of the night firing up fade away jumpers over the Hilltoppers 6-10 Braden Huff. "They hadn't played a lot of close games and I think we were more prepared for this kind of game."
The Trojans defense looked plenty prepared and did a great job of preventing a tall Glenbard West squad from getting too many chances inside. Huff did score 11 points in the first half as the visitors led 24-22, but the big man tallied just a pair of free throws in the second half while exerting lots of energy chasing Mielke around on the other end of the floor.
"It was a great game, back and forth. But Downers Grove had a great game plan and they did a heck of job keeping us out of the middle and they made us take difficult shots that were always contested," Hilltoppers coach Jason Opoka said. "We've got to make some adjustments for tomorrow and we have to do a better job on the glass."
The season comes to a close for these two programs with tomorrow's final two games of the WSC Tournament, where the two powers will meet again at Glenbard West. York, the only team to beat the Trojans this year, also will play in the tournament on Saturday.
Guard Caden Pierce paced the 14-1 Hilltoppers with 18 points, while Kyle Engstler played a big role in the winners' final quarter, scoring nine of his 13 points down the stretch.
"That was a gutty performance between two teams that know a lot about each other," Downers Grove North coach James Thomas said. "We made every practice count, every film session count and even the team dinners. It was a whirlwind and went by fast but I love them all to death."