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Glenbard West outlasts Hinsdale Central

Glenbard West outlasts Hinsdale Central

by Kevin Schmit

Sometimes it's tough to sum up the meaning of victory.

Good thing there's hardware around to do the talking for you.

Glenbard West edged Hinsdale Central 48-44 on Friday to claim the Class 4A Hinsdale Central regional championship and advance into next week's East Aurora sectional.

In winning the program's first regional title since 2008, the second-seeded Hilltoppers (25-3) also set a program record for victories in a season. The Hilltoppers needed to beat two of the three teams that beat them, including the 10th-seeded Red Devils (17-11) on their home court.

With all that rolled into one win, it was an emotional postgame celebration for Glenbard West.

"This means a lot," said Hilltoppers guard Alex Passi. "It proves that we could play under pressure and the regular season wasn't just a fluke."

Hinsdale Central put a big dent into Glenbard West's 38-31 lead early in the fourth quarter, narrowing the gap to 45-44 with 54 seconds left after Jack Hoiberg's three-point play and two free throws.

Justin Pierce's free throws boosted the advantage to 47-44 with 21.5 seconds left. The Red Devils got a good look at a 3-pointer in the final five seconds, but the shot went just off the mark. Pierce then split two free throws to seal the win.

"We knew it was going to be a heck of a game and that we had to come out strong," said Pierce, who scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 4 shots. "We just made enough free throws down the stretch to win the game."

Glenbard West advances to play another West Suburban Silver rival. The Hilltoppers face No. 6 York (19-12), a 47-40 winner over Naperville North, in the East Aurora sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"Being in the regional with teams that had all beaten us, that was a challenge for us," said Hilltoppers coach Tim Hoder. "We had to refocus after the league season was over, and the kids did it."

Pierce and Passi combined for 35 points including 21 of Glenbard West's 26 second-half points. Key 3-pointers by Connor O'Shea, Connor Mullins and Mike Langan, however, proved decisive.

"We knew from the start this was going to be a tough game," said Hinsdale Central senior Peter Blust, who scored 14 points. "They just made one or two extra plays."

Hinsdale Central led twice in the third quarter, but Glenbard West kept pushing back ahead. The Red Devils made only 6 of 13 free-throw attempts and missed the front end of 1-and-1s on three straight fourth-quarter possessions.

"We've played in close games all season," said Red Devils coach Nick Latorre. "Some free throws in the fourth quarters certainly didn't help, but our kids were scrappy and tough and hung around."

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