By Joe Henricksen
A season removed from winning a school-record 27 games and reaching a sectional final, DuPage Valley Conference champion Glenbard East showed this past weekend there is plenty of gas left in the tank for another run next winter. The Rams captured the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout title Sunday with an overtime win over Downers Grove South.
In a shootout field loaded with talent and 32 teams, Glenbard East, behind tournament MVP Johnny Hill, was the only team to leave with a perfect 6-0 record from the two-day event. The Rams, which finished second a year ago at the R-B Shootout, walloped Homewood-Flossmoor on Saturday and finished 3-0 on the day. Glenbard East beat up on St. Patrick, leading by more than 20 points at one point in the quarterfinal matchup, knocked off St. Joseph in the semis and came from behind to stun Downers Grove South in the final.
Hill, an up-and-coming 6-3 talent and among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011, was the story. In the semifinal win over St. Joe's he hit a trio of three-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points. In the final, Hill took over late in the game and led the Rams to a come-from-behind win. Downers Grove South led throughout the game and held a double-digit lead late. Glenbard East, however, chipped away in the final three minutes, with a Hill jumper at the buzzer sending the game into overtime. Trailing 66-64 with just 7 seconds to play, Hill then drilled a game-winning three-pointer for the win and finished with 30 points.
With Hill and veteran point guard Zach Miller, who was steady and solid all weekend running the team and knocking down shots, the Rams have the 1-2 punch that should make them the favorites in the DVC again next season. There is some young talent on the way from a sophomore team that went 22-3 last season. Plus, the emergence of 6-4 Kevin Priebe, who missed much of last season with injuries and illness, will be a huge boost. Priebe gives the Rams a third weapon on the offensive end with his versatility around the basket and stretching defenses with his three-point shooting.
Western Suburbs poised for big season
What the semifinals at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout showed was how strong the sectional featuring Glenbard East, Downers Grove South and Benet Academy will be next March. Yes, a lot can happen in the next eight months, but it's tough to imagine any other team in the sectional that could supplant these powers as the top three seeds.
Glenbard East, Benet Academy and Downers Grove South will be battling for that No. 1 seed all winter, with Glenbard East and Benet Academy meeting one another in the 14th annual High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates Jan. 22.
Benet Academy, which won the sectional a year ago, reached the semis at R-B but fell to Downers Grove South in the semifinals. The terrific trio of point guard David Sobolewski, improving big man Frank Kaminsky and shooter/defender Matt Parisi return and gained valuable March experience a year ago. Coach Gene Heidkamp, last season's City/Suburban Hoops Report's Coach of the Year, is hoping he can fill some holes, particularly the minutes from a couple of valuable role players from a year ago and finding another ballhandler to relieve some of the pressure off Sobolewski.
Downers Grove South, meanwhile, could evolve as this year's sleeper in the Chicago area. Although coach Jay Baum's club will still be relatively young, the Mustangs are talented and feature a difference-making type of talent in eye-opening junior Jerron Wilbut. The 6-2 athletic Wilbut can play the role of slasher, creator or shooter. He's a versatile player who already jumped into the Hoops Report's top 10 players in the Class of 2012 earlier this spring. The explosive Wilbut was sensational in a win over Benet Academy in the semifinals on Sunday.
In addition to Wilbut, 6-2 junior Jamal Millison is another talented piece who is coming off an impressive sophomore season. Millison is a shooter and scorer who, combined with Wilbut, gives Baum a dangerous perimeter pair. Unheralded Ziggy Riauka, a 6-7 small college prospect, provides size and skill inside, while 6-4 Kevin Honn is another solid junior who gained some experience a year ago. While perennial power Proviso East will be strong, DGS just may be the favorite in the West Suburban Gold heading into November.
After spending two days at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, the Hoops Report will have another blog update early this week on all the action that took place. The event continues to be one of the best of the summer, with its combination of talent, facilities and organization. A lot of credit again goes to tournament organizer Mike Reingruber and the Riverside-Brookfield staff.