Glenbard West passes another test with win over Larkin
There is one common goal for the Glenbard West boys basketball team and it involves playing and winning the final game of the season in March.
After another dominating performance Wednesday in a 64-43 victory over once-beaten Larkin, Glenbard West took yet another step in solidifying itself as the top Class 4A team in the state.
But there isn't complacency from a group led by three-year varsity starters in Braden Huff, Caden Pierce and Bobby Durkin. There is a continued will to come to practice each day and find ways to get better and leave no doubt come playoff time.
"We still take one game at a time and don't overlook anyone," said Pierce, one of four Hilltoppers in double figures Wednesday with his 13 points. "It's great taking the court with these guys every single night. We obviously have a lot of confidence with the way we're playing right now. Yeah, there's definitely no complaining, it's nice to win."
Glenbard West (17-0) got off to a fast start with all five starters contributing in the scoring column to a 14-3 run to begin the game. The last of those buckets was a thunderous slam dunk from the 6-foot-11 Huff.
The Gonzaga commit scored 10 of his 16 points before halftime as the Hilltoppers doubled up Larkin, 30-15, at the break. Pierce, a Princeton recruit, also had two slams of his own in the win.
"I think the nice part about us is that we have a number of guys that can contribute," said Huff, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "I think it's honestly our biggest strength. I've been playing [basketball] with a lot of these guys since elementary school, so it's awesome to have one last ride as a group. We know we just have to keep it going."
Larkin (17-2) was coming off an Upstate Eight Conference victory Tuesday night over Streamwood, and while coach Deryn Carter makes no excuses, he hopes to see Glenbard West again with a more significant amount at stake.
"They're one of the better teams we've had to play since I've been [at Larkin]," Carter said. "They're a heck of a team. The problem is that once you get down by 15 to a team like this, you're going to need some help. I thought we fought hard and got back in it, but [Glenbard West] is just so good and they didn't make very many mistakes tonight. We could see them down the line and we hope we get another crack at them."
Royals standout guard Damari Wheeler-Thomas was limited for most of Wednesday night due to the length and size of the Glenbard West 1-3-1 zone. Starting players at 6-foot-11, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6 made it extremely difficult for Larkin's athleticism to shine, but Wheeler-Thomas helped get his team within 10 at two different occasions in the second half.
However, Durkin answered the Larkin fourth quarter comeback attempt with one of his 4 3-pointers to aid a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach. Durkin finished with 14 points in the win.
Wheeler-Thomas finished with 13 points, while Fernando Perez led the Royals with 14 points.
"We know that when we play the way we are capable of, we like our chances against anyone," Durkin said. "Our unselfishness gives us that piece of mind that we don't have to play a perfect game to still be able to get the job done."
"The overall goal every time we step on the court together, whether that be practice or a game, is to improve," Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. "We just have to continue taking this one day at a time. This group understands that it isn't going to be easy and they know how to fight through any adversity. We have to keep taking baby steps to climb up that hill until we reach the castle."