CAROL STREAM – On the first day of practice in November, Joe Larson took his Glenbard North boys basketball team into the hallway to look at a picture of the 1991 squad.
Those Panthers were the last in the program to win a conference title, and Larson believed this year’s group could end up on the wall next to them.
He was right.
On Wednesday, Glenbard North survived an upset bid by Wheaton North to post a 78-69 victory and grab a share of the DVC championship with a 12-2 mark.
“It means a lot,” said Larson, who was a freshman at Glenbard North in 1991. “It means a lot around here as a community and it means a lot to our program. And it means a lot to me.
I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys.”
The Falcons didn’t make it easy for the Panthers on senior night, tying the score at 64-64 with four minutes remaining. But the home team closed the game on a 14-5 run, a spurt that began with the go-ahead basket by Jeremiah Fleming and was punctuated by back-to-back dunks by Justin Jackson and Chip Flanigan.
“It started in the summer,” Fleming said. “We went 20-5 in the summer league and we knew we could be a good team. Before the season started, coach told us we could be a part of history and we worked very hard, and now we are here.”
Fleming led four players in double figures with 22 points. Kendall Holbert had 19 points, Flanigan finished with 17 and Justin Jackson added 10.
“This was something we’ve worked for all summer, all camp and throughout the whole season,” said Holbert, who was also a part of the DVC-winning football team. “After the Naperville North loss [Jan. 31], we played the best basketball we could and we finished. It’s been a good year.”
Glenbard North was afforded the opportunity to share the title after more heroics from Flanigan on Friday night against Naperville Central.
In the first matchup with the Redhawks, Flanigan nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Panthers a 62-61 win Jan. 11. This time around, the senior forward made a driving lay-up with 17 seconds remaining to give the home team a 59-57 victory.
Naperville Central tied the game on a three-point play with 23.6 seconds left and then set up their full court press, which Flanigan beat. The Redhawks had two final shots in the closing seconds, but a 3-point attempt and putback at the rim both missed.
“We needed to attack and get to the basket,” Flanigan said of not waiting for the final shot. “We didn’t want to have a turnover, we wanted to penetrate. Justin (Jackson) threw me the ball and I turned around and had no one there. I had enough room to take a couple of dribbles and get a shot off.”
Flanigan finished with 24 points and Jeremiah Fleming added 13.
The next night, the Panthers defeated Wheaton Warrenville South 68-44.