Glenbard West loses 1st game on 3-pointer at buzzer
Glenbard West, like a hometown favorite and in the unusual role of underdog, was introduced Saturday to the theme from "Rocky."
The Hilltoppers have been a local sensation this season. Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked, Glenbard West on Saturday night was part of the most-anticipated regular-season high school basketball game in Illinois in at least a decade. Tickets for the game at Wintrust Arena with Sierra Canyon, a national power out of California, were fetching up to $1,200 this week on StubHub. One person called the matchup "Hoosiers vs. Hollywood."
It got a Hollywood ending, just not for the home team.
Dylan Metoyer's 3-pointer from in front of the Sierra Canyon bench just beat the buzzer. It handed Glenbard West a crushing 67-64 loss in front of a sellout crowd of close to 10,000 fans in Chicago -- but the Hilltoppers took plenty of good from their first loss.
"The ball didn't bounce our way at the end, but we are better for this," Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. "We are very proud of the effort and the intensity and the will to fight through adversity. Very impressive of our guys to be able to compete at a high level and execute down the stretch."
Indeed, Glenbard West showed tremendous resolve to put itself in position to win at the end. The Hilltoppers trailed 45-33 two minutes into the third quarter, and 55-47 in the fourth quarter. UCLA recruit Amari Bailey, a top five player nationally who grew up in Chicago, scored eight of his game-high 19 points in the first two minutes of the second half. Glenbard West, not as deep as Sierra Canyon, looked gassed.
But the Hilltoppers came all the way back to tie it with 28.4 seconds left, Paxton Warden splitting two free throws. Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff, who struggled at times throughout but still scored a team-high 13 points, hit two free throws with 1:38 left, then hit a 3-pointer with 1:08 left. Bailey missed a layup at the other end, and Warden was fouled on a layup attempt.
"We all looked at each other, and we knew what we were capable of," said Huff, who had limped to the bench in the first half after taking a tumble on a blocked shot, but played on. "When we got down like that, I don't think anybody hung their head or pointed fingers."
After a Sierra Canyon timeout, Bailey knifed through the lane, and the ball landed in Metoyer's hands for the game-winner.
"Bailey did a nice job getting in our seam; you close out slow when you get those directs," Opoka said. "Kid hit a big-time shot. That's going to happen when you play the best."
Metoyer scored 13 points and hit three of Sierra Canyon's 10 3-pointers. Junior guard Bronny James, the son of NBA star LeBron James and a top national recruit, hit six 3-pointers and scored 18 points for the Trailblazers (21-4).
Bobby Durkin and Ryan Renfro each scored 12 points, Caden Pierce 11 and Warden 10 for Glenbard West.
The game between two nationally-ranked teams had the Wintrust crowd buzzing throughout. Glenbard West students filled two sections behind one baseline, booed Sierra Canyon when it took the court and razzed James and Bailey throughout. Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan was even in attendance.
But even he didn't get the frenzied ovation that 5-foot-8 Glenbard West senior Andrew Dauksas got when he converted a three-point play in the final seconds of the third quarter, closing the Hilltoppers within 53-46.
"It's memories that will last a lifetime," Huff said. "Obviously the way it ended stinks a little bit but I'm really happy with how our team played. When we got down we didn't give up. The crowd was unbelievable."
Both teams came out hot, combining for nine three-pointers in the first quarter. James hit three to stake Sierra Canyon to a 22-15 lead. Durkin and Renfro hit 3s for Glenbard West in the final two minutes of the first half, Durkin giving Glenbard West a momentary 29-28 lead, but a Bailey 3 gave Sierra Canyon a 35-32 halftime lead.
Depth was a fatigue factor, particularly at the free-throw line where Glenbard West shot just 11-for-20.
"But our guys found a will to get back to where we needed to be," Opoka said. "They handled the game as professionals and rose to the occasion."
The game, if anything, further validated Glenbard West as the best team in the state. The Hilltoppers will get another chance to prove themselves Feb. 18 in a regular season finale against Class 3A No. 1 Simeon at Proviso West.
They were pleased with their showing on a national stage.
"We're proud of the way we battled," Durkin said, "showing how we can play not only in the state but against the best teams from around the country."