VILLA PARK – In a key early season Western Suburban Gold matchup, Willowbrook had a powerful answer to a wakeup call Friday.
After visiting Hinsdale South closed the first half on an 8-3 run to lead 23-18, the Warriors sizzled in the second half. Hitting 12 of 17 field goals in the third quarter, Willowbrook used a 16-0 run to take command en route to a 61-53 win.
“At halftime we knew we weren’t playing the way we should be,” said Willowbrook center Ethan Schuemer, who had 20 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots and became the first Warriors' player to surpass 1,000 career points. “We got hyped up, and we came out and did everything right in that third quarter.”
Cornelius Paxton Jr., added 11 points and three assists, his steal and layup with 4:35 left in the third quarter putting Willowbrook (6-1, 2-1) ahead for good at 29-27. Matas Masys, who had nine points, followed with a steal and 10-footer to cap the 16-0 run for a 36-27 lead.
The Willowbrook lead never dipped below seven again. Marshawn Phillips added 12 points, Sikander Zafer five points and seven rebounds and Matthew Myers four points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Warriors.
“Everybody that was in there was contributing,” Warriors coach Chris Perkins said. “We picked up our energy level and intensity, we picked them up full court and got a couple of steals, and got the momentum turned to our side. We started playing our type of game.
“I thought in the first half we were really sluggish. We’re averaging 72 points a game, and an 18-point half is supposed to be a quarter for us.”
Robert Barnes scored 19 points and Iowa State recruit Zion Griffin added 14 points and nine rebounds for Hinsdale South (7-2, 1-1). The Hornets saw a solid second quarter dissolve into a second-half nightmare.
“I think they scored 100 points in the third quarter – at least that’s what it felt like,” Hornets coach Brett Moore said.
“We got going into their [up-tempo] game too much. We are not our best when we play at that havoc style. They’re a very good team, and we’re not going to beat them at that game.”
After making just eight of 27 first-half field goals, Willowbrook shot 16 of 27 after the break. The Hornets were 19 of 56 from the field, 10 of 31 in the second half.
“I knew how big a game this was for us,” Schuemer said, “losing to this [Hornets] team twice last year and already losing a conference game this year [at the buzzer to Proviso East]. We knew we had to win this game and we really fought hard, especially in that second half.”
The roller coaster ride Friday was just one chapter in what should be a tight WSC Gold title chase.
“In the five years I’ve been here, nobody’s won this conference without a loss,” Moore said. “All we have to do is get better from here. We think we can play with anybody, but tonight it just got away from us.”