GLEN ELLYN – Griffin Foster has never been a basketball star.
In fact, the Glenbard West senior rode the bench last season, never getting on the court outside of garbage time.
Foster was determined not to get any splinters this season.
“Going into the summer after last year, I knew the main way I would get playing time this year was working on my shooting,” Foster said. “I just worked so hard on it and it really paid off. I’ve developed into a really good shooter.”
Foster isn’t kidding. The 6-foot-3 guard got his first career start Monday night in the season opener against crosstown rival Glenbard South and made the most of it.
Foster scored 12 of his career-high 15 points in the fourth quarter as the host Hilltoppers broke open a tight game and captured a 53-41 win at the District 87 Thanksgiving Tournament.
“He’s worked on it,” Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder said. “He’s shooting the ball really well in practice.
“He has a really quick release. That was a nice breakout for him.”
Foster picked up a couple fouls early and attempted only one official shot in the first half, but Hoder cited a nullified 3-pointer that ended up playing a big role.
“He hit one earlier in the game when they called Evan [Taylor] on a carry,” Hoder recalled. “I was hoping he’d get those first couple under his belt and get a little confidence going. I’m really happy for him.”
The Hilltoppers used a 7-1 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from Taylor and Carter Lindstrom, to take a 27-20 halftime lead. Foster, who made 4-of-5 3-point attempts, sank his first 3 on the opening possession of the third quarter and West extended its lead to 31-20.
But Glenbard South responded with a 10-0 run, including four free throws from guard Tavion Keith and a pair of inside buckets from center Ryan Harrington, to pull within 31-30.
The game was still tight heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Hilltoppers embarked on a 16-2 run to extend their advantage to 51-34 on a layup by Taylor, who tallied a game-high 16 points despite missing most of that decisive run after tweaking his ankle.
But the key to the run was Foster, who sank his last four attempts, three of them from beyond the arc in transition.
“I just think we picked up our defense, started talking more and communicating,” Foster said. “Then we started looking up in transition, looking for the open guy.”
That guy was Foster, though it wasn’t by design. The Hilltoppers sank 10 of 22 3-point tries and Foster had the hot hand late.
“It just kind of happened,” Foster said. “Our coach really emphasizes transition, so Evan Taylor and Carter Lindstrom look to attack every rebound and I just happened to be open, knocked down some shots.”
That was a stark contrast to the third quarter in which the Hilltoppers went without a basket for six minutes. Then it was the Raiders who hit a dry spell, going 7:28 between baskets.
“[Third quarter] we just did a better job of attacking the basket and trying to turn the corner and get toward the rim,” Glenbard South coach Wade Hardtke said. “First half we weren’t doing a good job of that. Second half we did.
“Unfortunately, they hit some big shots and we couldn’t buy one there for a while. We came away empty on a couple possessions and they hit 3s on two of them and the next thing you know, we were down big.”
Tommy Powers led the Raiders with 10 points, while Keith and Nick Plaso each added eight points. Lindstrom had nine points and three assists for West.