At some point, every team needs a defining win.
Willowbrook’s boys basketball team may have claimed its on Friday.
The Warriors advanced to the title game of the Glenbard West Holiday Classic with a 49-46 victory over the host Hilltoppers in Glen Ellyn. Willowbrook faces Leyden at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Unlike previous tough losses — Stagg, Hinsdale South and Plainfield South included — Willowbrook (6-6) did a textbook job closing out Glenbard West (8-3) in the final minutes.
The Hilltoppers trimmed a 45-38 deficit to 45-44 after a Nathan Marcus bucket with 1:28 left but a huge putback by Willowbrook’s Nick Kilianek and a pair of Yashua Trent free throws with 8.5 seconds left sealed the win.
“Early in the season we lost a lot of close games, and we wanted to come out and get the chance to win this tournament,” said Warriors guard Josh Joiner. “This is big for us.”
It didn’t come easy after committing a pair of turnovers in the final minute. Even with Joiner, who led his team with 13 points, fouling out with 12 seconds left, Willowbrook stayed composed.
“I like the way we finished because we’ve been in this situation several times and weren’t able to pull it out,” said Warriors coach Chris Perkins. “We’re finally learning to pull out these close games.”
Despite Glenbard West staying close, Willowbrook led for good at 13-8 behind a 10-0 first-quarter run.
The Warriors were balanced with Tiger Greene and Trent each scoring 12 points. The effort was even more impressive considering Edvinas Mickevicius sat with an injury.
Glenbard West also played short-handed without leading scorer Keith Hayes, who was out of town. Jeff Levesque remains out with injury. The offensive woes were obvious during 2-of-13 3-point shooting.
Hilltoppers guards Dikiria Washington and Corey Davis combined for 27 points.
“I really thought we were going to pull it out,” said Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder, whose team faces St. Francis at 6:15 p.m. Saturday in the third-place game. “With our shooting right now we have to get to the basket. They’re playing hard and battling, but we really have to execute to get good looks.”
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