Glenbard West tops Downers Grove North in season finale

  • Glenbard West's Danny Mulcare pulls down a rebound during a win over Downers Grove North on Saturday.

    Glenbard West's Danny Mulcare pulls down a rebound during a win over Downers Grove North on Saturday. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Downers Grove North on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

    Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Downers Grove North on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Downers Grove North's Jake Demos goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Glenbard West on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

    Downers Grove North's Jake Demos goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Glenbard West on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Jake Morgan of Downers Grove North goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Glenbard West on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

    Jake Morgan of Downers Grove North goes up for a shot during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Glenbard West on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Glenbard West's Caden Pierce (right) dribbles the ball during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Downers Grove North on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

    Glenbard West's Caden Pierce (right) dribbles the ball during a West Suburban Conference Tournament game in Glen Ellyn against Downers Grove North on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 3/13/2021 10:06 PM

Glenbard West junior forward Braden Huff watched the final quarter of Saturday's game from the bench.

So did junior teammate Caden Pierce.

 

Downers Grove North's starting five viewed the entire final game of the season from the bench. Senior forward Jack Mielke kept busy by keeping statistics throughout the final game of the season.

In a strange truncated season with masks, limited to no fans and without a state tournament, the Downers Grove North-Glenbard West clash seemed almost a fitting way to end the season.

For those keeping score, Glenbard West pulled out a 51-44 victory over the Trojans in the final game of the season for both teams. Officially, the Hilltoppers (16-1) avenged Friday's 59-49 defeat to the Trojans, which was ended their chances for an undefeated season.

"We played the guys we felt were supposed to be out there tonight," Downers Grove North coach James Thomas said. "We don't have a deep rotation, so those (non-starters) mean as much to our program as the guys that are out there playing every day ... They deserved an opportunity to be out there. Our pregame speech before Friday's game was that game was going to be the end of our varsity season, and that was a decision our coaching staff delivered on."

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Huff threw down a two-handed dunk late in the third quarter for his final points of the season. The Hilltoppers chose to play their top players for part of the game.

Senior Troy Glover II led the Hilltoppers with 11 points, Pierce and Ryan Renfro each scored eight and Huff added seven in limited minutes.

The Hilltoppers defeated York earlier Saturday afternoon, while Downers Grove North also beat York. Pierce said the Hilltoppers would've loved to play the Trojans' full squad.

"We were watching (Downers Grove North's) first game (on Saturday) and we saw they came out not starting their normal guys, but we thought they were saving them for us," Pierce said. "It was just a weird game, but we did end up winning."

The Trojans (13-2) and Hilltoppers shared the West Suburban Silver regular season title, and no outright winner was awarded the tourney championship. The Hilltoppers return nearly all of their players next season, and should be one of the top teams in Chicagoland next season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We wanted to end the season on a positive note, and we've had such a successful year given COVID-19 that we wanted to give kids an opportunity to play yet continue to play to our potential," Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. "We started our (normal) five.

"This year has been a build up of hard work and dedication. The kids had one goal in mind and that was to win a conference championship. We were co-champions. I couldn't be more proud of our guys the way we fought and competed. The potential for our future is so bright because we bring back a lot of juniors who played a significant amount of time."

Huff said the Hilltoppers understand next season could be one of the best in program history.

"We're happy we finished on a win, and we're happy about this season but next season should be a lot of fun," Huff said.

Junior Paxton Warden, who averaged nearly 11 points per game, said the Hilltoppers can use this season as motivation.

"It's been a crazy journey this whole season with COVID-19, and we had to fight through some adversity," Warden said. "It's been hard to adapt to change, but we're all looking forward to next season. We all bonded together since sophomore year, and it's going to be a good journey next year."

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