Glenbard West seals the deal with Class 4A state championship

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) and Bobby Durkin (33) celebrate as substitutes Andrew Dauks as (12) and Jack Cardwell (25) come in during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Glenbard West defeated Whitney Young 56-34.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) and Bobby Durkin (33) celebrate as substitutes Andrew Dauks as (12) and Jack Cardwell (25) come in during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Glenbard West defeated Whitney Young 56-34. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff, left, shoots a layup in front of Whitney Young's Xavier Amos during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff, left, shoots a layup in front of Whitney Young's Xavier Amos during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, right, goes to the basket against Whitney Young's Daniel Johnson during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, right, goes to the basket against Whitney Young's Daniel Johnson during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Logan Brown, front, celebrates with his team after the Hilltoppers defeated Whitney Young 56-34 during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Logan Brown, front, celebrates with his team after the Hilltoppers defeated Whitney Young 56-34 during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Louis Amabile (23) shakes hands with teammate Paxton Warden (24) after the Hiltoppers defeated Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Louis Amabile (23) shakes hands with teammate Paxton Warden (24) after the Hiltoppers defeated Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Caden Pierce carries the number 32 jersey after the Hilltoppers defeated Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Caden Pierce carries the number 32 jersey after the Hilltoppers defeated Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff, left , and Graham Pierce celebrate the Hilltoppers' Class 4A boys state basketball  championship at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff, left , and Graham Pierce celebrate the Hilltoppers' Class 4A boys state basketball championship at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West poses with its first-place trophy after defeating Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West poses with its first-place trophy after defeating Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, right, drives hard to the basket against Whitney Young's AJ Casey during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, right, drives hard to the basket against Whitney Young's AJ Casey during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Paxton Warden dunks during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Paxton Warden dunks during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Ryan Renfro (45) and Braden Huff (34) defend a shot by Whitney Young's Dalen Davis during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Ryan Renfro (45) and Braden Huff (34) defend a shot by Whitney Young's Dalen Davis during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) shoots during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game against Whitney Young at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff (34) shoots during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game against Whitney Young at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's coach Jason Opoka talks to Paxton Warden, left, and Caden Pierce during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's coach Jason Opoka talks to Paxton Warden, left, and Caden Pierce during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff celebrates after hitting a shot during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff celebrates after hitting a shot during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, left, gets fouled by Whitney Young's Daniel Johnson during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Paxton Warden, left, gets fouled by Whitney Young's Daniel Johnson during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West players on the bench celebrate as their team pulls away from Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West players on the bench celebrate as their team pulls away from Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Caden Pierce celebrates as the Hilltoppers increase their lead against Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Caden Pierce celebrates as the Hilltoppers increase their lead against Whitney Young during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Braden Huff shakes hands with teammates on the bench during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Braden Huff shakes hands with teammates on the bench during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka leads the Hilltoppers during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka leads the Hilltoppers during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West's Caden Pierce dribbles while being guarded by Whitney Young's Matthew Somerville during the Class 4A boys state basketball  championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday.

      Glenbard West's Caden Pierce dribbles while being guarded by Whitney Young's Matthew Somerville during the Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at State Farm Center in Champaign Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/13/2022 8:15 AM

CHAMPAIGN -- Paxton Warden turned around in the final minutes, cast a glance at four other Glenbard West senior starters and waved his arms in salute.

The journey is complete.

 

A goal whose seeds were planted seven years ago while the boys were in grade school came to fruition Saturday night. Glenbard West finished a magical season in the same manner that they have done so all season -- in dominant fashion.

Glenbard West, No. 1 all season, led wire-to-wire in beating Young 56-34 to win the Class 4A championship at State Farm Center in Champaign. It is the program's first state championship.

"It definitely feels great," Glenbard West senior Caden Pierce said. "People have been talking about it for a long time, but we've been dreaming about it even longer, since we were in elementary school and middle school. That's when it started. To do, with these seniors, it's a dream come true."

The margin was Glenbard West's closest in seven playoff games, and the Hilltoppers' 30th by 20 or more points. They went undefeated against Illinois opponents, their only loss on a buzzer-beater to nationally ranked Sierra Canyon at Wintrust Arena.

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The win cements Glenbard West (37-1), until this year known more for football, as one of Illinois basketball's greatest champions.

"For sure it's awesome," Glenbard West senior and Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff said. "Throughout the year there was definitely noise and chatter about that, but we knew it would mean nothing if we didn't win this game. We stayed focused throughout and stayed really determined to finally accomplish our goal. To be compared with other great teams, it's really special."

Huff had 19 points and 5 assists and Warden, on his future home court, scored a game-high 21 points for Glenbard West, which shot 57.9%.

Huff, like he did in the Hilltoppers' previous win over Young, 74-59 in January, raised his play to another level on the big stage.

He scored and assisted on Glenbard West's first five baskets. Young's Xavier Amos, an NIU recruit, had no answer against the 6-foot-11 Glenbard West senior.

In the latter stages of the third quarter, Huff drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then went behind his back and dropped in a floater to end the third quarter with Glenbard West ahead 42-20.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Especially in this game, being the last with these guys was for sure one that I was ready for and was not wanting to lose," said Huff, who shot 8 for 13 from the floor. "Big games like these I get amped up for. I think we all do. It's just been one heck of a ride."

It's a ride Huff looks forward to celebrating at noon Sunday back in Glen Ellyn.

"I think we need a fire truck," he said with a smile.

Warden was 4 for 4 in the first half, as the Hilltoppers led 25-16 at halftime. He finished 8 for 10 from the field, finishing his night in spectacular fashion, a sweet baseline drive and reverse layup.

A Warden dunk capped off a 13-0 run for a 44-20 Glenbard West lead early in the fourth quarter.

"It means a lot to play with these guys that I've been playing with for a while, and it's kind of a sad moment because it's our last moment together," Warden said. "But we ended in a good way. So I'm really excited."

Amos scored 14 points for Young, ranked second in the preseason. It is the first time since 2005 that the Chicago Public League did not have a state champion.

The Dolphins (25-10) shot just 25% in the first half and scored just four points in the third quarter. All-stater A.J. Casey, a Miami recruit, went without a field goal until the fourth quarter and scored 6 points.

"As a coach you want to dictate the terms of engagement, but that's the way they have all year long," Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. "We knew it would be a challenge to play against that length and that zone and it was. And it always was this year."

Slaughter also spoke about where Glenbard West belongs among the state's elite champs.

"This is my sixth trip here, and there have been a lot of great teams in this state, and they are a really good team," Slaughter said. "They're outstanding and they do things differently than anyone has done, and they do it well, and they've done it since fifth grade. We've played some really good teams and they are one of them."

Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka, for his part, was more proud of how his kids won, than where their place in history might be.

"It's so great to compare and do this and that, but I'm more proud of how they approached each and every practice to make every single one on that roster get better," Opoka said. "You have to enjoy and cherish those moments."

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