GLEN ELLYN – Glenbard West star Evan Taylor didn’t want to watch the last three minutes of the Glenbard West Holiday Tournament championship game from the bench.
But he liked what he saw.
Taylor had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots before fouling out with 3:34 remaining. Even without him, the Hilltoppers rallied to upset Willowbrook 53-51 on Thursday at Biester Gym.
Glenbard West (8-4) thus avenged a loss to the Warriors in last year’s tournament title game. The Hilltoppers also made a statement that Taylor has plenty of help.
“It shows that we’re definitely a step up from last year,” Taylor said. “We really took that one last year to heart because it was a tough game as well.
“But I think this can correlate to West Suburban Conference league games, so if we play like this we can play with anybody in our conference.”
Junior guard Kyle Dell had a crucial effort at both ends for West, finishing with a team-high 12 points and eight assists to go with three steals.
Most of Dell’s assists came in the first half as the Hilltoppers sank their first five shots to jump out to a 14-3 lead en route to a 31-22 halftime edge.
But Dell tallied nine of his points in the final four minutes, including a go-ahead three-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a 45-44 lead.
The Warriors (9-2) retook the lead on a layup by Jack Hines. Taylor fouled out on a charge soon after. Ben Reifel took a charge to give the ball back to West and Dell responded by sinking both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 47-46 lead with 3:01 remaining. He then hit a floater from the right baseline with 2:19 to go.
“I think it was a testament to Kyle being a leader of this team,” Taylor said. “He did a very good job of focusing on not making turnovers and just cutting to the basket or getting to where we needed to be in our offense, which I really appreciated because that was a tough one to get fouled out of.”
Dell later hit two more free throws with 15.4 seconds left and Reifel scored his only point 10 seconds later to make it 53-48. Willowbrook’s Matas Masys sank a three-pointer with one second to go to finish the scoring.
“We huddled up after Evan fouled out and talked about how we had to be aggressive because Evan is usually the aggressor and creates for other people,” Dell said.“We had to be aggressive because when we’re not aggressive, that’s when turnovers happen.
“We all said drive to the basket because a basket is better than a turnover.”
The Hilltopppers had 23 turnovers but only three in the last three minutes. Willowbrook could not take advantage, shooting 18-for-61 from the floor and 8-for-17 from the line.
Matthew Myers had a game-high 14 points and Masys added 13 for the Warriors, but West's Caden Phillips held Willowbrook star center Ethan Schuemer to four points, 12 under his average. The 6-foot-6 Schuemer was 1-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-8 from the line.
“Ethan probably played his worst game of the season,” Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins said. “He didn’t have the lift or the legs.
“We had energy defensively and we had a lot of good looks. It’s just we didn’t have the legs today to finish plays offensively and I think that was the major difference. But it was a great game.”