Downers Grove North loses in Tosh semifinals to defending 3A champ Metamora

Downers Grove North came to the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic for one reason, the competition.

And on Friday night the Trojans went toe-to-toe with the best of the best.

Having defending Class 3A champion Metamora on the ropes in the semifinals, Downers Grove North just couldn’t close it out down the stretch and fell 44-38 in Elmhurst.

Leading 33-26 shortly into the fourth quarter after a layup by Owen Thulin, the Trojans got outscored 18-5 down the stretch.

“We want to play the best of the best,” said Thulin, who led Downers North with 12 points and 2 steals. “That gets us ready for the big moments, like the playoffs. We are competitors, we just want to compete.

“Defensively, we were good. It was just the lapses we had that messed us up. The first half we came out and played solid, the third quarter we kind of pulled away. And then they had that big fourth-quarter run where those lapses killed us.”

Taking a 19-18 advantage into halftime, Downers Grove North scored the first seven points of the third quarter and later led by as many as nine points.

Downers Grove North’s Aidan Akkawi gets the ball to the basket during the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic semifinals against Metamora at York High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023.

After Metamora (11-3) went on a 12-0 run in the fourth to pull in front 38-33, the Trojans came back to tie the score on a 3-pointer by Alex Miller with 1:52 left. But Cooper Koch followed with a layup to put the Redbirds up for good.

“We always take pride in our defense,” Thulin said after the Trojans forced 13 turnovers. “We knew they had two dogs who could really shoot the ball and we had to stop that. But they had a couple of other guys step up and make shots.”

Bobby Grganto came off the bench to score nine points and Miller finished with seven for the Trojans, who will play in the third-place game Saturday.

“In that type of game, you can’t give possessions away and we did,” said Downers North coach Jim Thomas, whose team’s only other loss came to Curie on Dec. 10. “I thought we did a really good job on their top two scorers, but their other guys picked it up and that’s what good teams do. They closed out better than we did.

“We also have to do a better job of finishing (at the rim). That’s the same thing that happened against Curie. But that’s OK. We came here to get a barometer of where we are at, because of the teams you play, and we will get a chance at another good one tomorrow.”

Metamora, which also finished as the runner-up in 3A in 2021-22, was topped by the 15 points of Matthew Zobrist, who scored 12 in a row at one point in the second half. Tyler Mason also checked into double figures with 10.

(From left) Metamora’s Cooper Koch, Downers Grove North’s Jack Richtman and Metamora’s Nick Walker go after a rebound during the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic semifinals at York High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023.

“They took us out of our stuff in the first half,” said Metamora coach Danny Grieves, whose team is making its initial appearance at the Tosh. “They were physical and pushed us into some poor shot situations. We had nine turnovers, most of them in transition. And then only three in the second half; we slowed it down and Zobrist came through and hit some big shots.

Downers Grove North’s Aidan Akkawi (left) and Metamora’s Cooper Koch go after the rebound during the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic semifinals at York High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023.

“We were very humbled that they even invited us (to this tournament). It’s the best big Holiday tournament that I’ve ever been in. If you come through here, you know they do it right. We are very grateful to be here, we just didn’t want to embarrass ourselves. And we are really proud to be where we are at.”

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