By Joe Henricksen

This is why I love high school basketball

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Soon, I will traipse around from gym to gym taking in a whole bunch of meaningless AAU basketball games, where individual glory and accomplishments -- from improving their "player ranking" to trying to get a college coach to take notice -- trumps all else.

Then I will think back to this late February night, where players and coaches put everything on the line to win a team championship. When it comes to those AAU games in April, May or July, it just can't match the stakes, the energy and the fact wins and losses really matter at this time of the year.

If you were a high school basketball fan, hopefully you were able to get out Wednesday night for one of the handful of top-notch, high-level games that left thousands of people talking long after the games finished. And hopefully you got really lucky and hit one of a trio of overtime thrillers, including two that went to double overtime.

Maybe you had to "settle" for watching superstar sophomore Jalen Brunson put Stevenson on its back to beat North Chicago, 73-58. And, along the way, relish with a Patriots team, program and fan base that got to experience winning a conference championship for the first time since 1992.

Brunson, arguably the top sophomore in the state in the Class of 2015, put up 32 points, including six 3-pointers, and dished out six assists.

If you were in the north suburbs, maybe you were fortunate to catch Maine South's scratch-and-claw double overtime victory over Niles North to capture the Central Suburban League championship.

From the sounds of it, there was blood, knockouts and both individual and team comebacks in this thriller. This blue-collar bunch from Maine South received a game-tying layup with 1 second remaining in regulation from Frank Dounis and went on to a 64-61 victory in double overtime.

Maybe you were in the northwest suburbs and snuck into a packed house at Prospect, where the host school and crowd was buzzing after junior Bobby Frasco drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to force overtime with Schaumburg.

But even in a tough environment, Schaumburg claimed its second straight Mid-Suburban League championship in a 43-40 double-overtime victory behind its seniors. Seniors Jimmy Lundquist and Kyle Bolger, both three-year varsity starters with plenty of big-game experience, stepped up once again. Lundquist hit a critical 3-pointer in the second overtime and Bolger scored a game-high 24 points in this typical MSL defensive dogfight.

Or maybe you were with me to take in the drama of what was the single best game I've watched this season on the West Side of Aurora, where Glenbard East beat West Aurora in an exhilarating and exhausting double overtime game filled with big-time, gut-check plays.

Glenbard East, in front of a raucous West Aurora crowd, beat their DuPage Valley Conference rivals for an eighth straight time. Find me the last team (any team?) to beat a Gordie Kerkman-coached West Aurora team eight consecutive times.

Among the highlights in this game that decided the DuPage Valley Conference championship:

• How's this for a run: Glenbard East trailed 36-23 at the half and less than seven minutes into the third quarter was leading 53-44. Yes, behind a barrage of 3-pointers and a freakish stretch of multiple Rams with their own personal "heat checks" in drilling eight straight shots, the Rams went on a 30-8 run on the road in seven minutes.

• The end of regulation was wild. JaRon Hall came off a screen at the top of the key to drill an off-balance, go-ahead three-pointer to put Glenbard East up 63-60 with 5.7 seconds remaining.

• West Aurora's Jontrel Walker, who exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter alone, took the inbounds pass and launched a 37-footer just before the buzzer sounded. The dramatic three-pointer set off euphoria, with the entire West Aurora student body -- and even fans and parents -- storming and piling on the floor in mayhem with the players. Many observers half-wondered if West Aurora would be assessed a technical to start the overtime in a scene never seen before a game is over.

• After a back-and-forth first overtime, which included a last-second Glenbard East shot rolling off the rim, the game looked to be in West Aurora's hands in the second overtime, leading 75-71 with less than a minute to play. But Tahron Harvey knocked in a 3-pointer to trim Glenbard East's deficit to 75-74.

• Then it was Brandon Havenga's turn to add to the drama. Trailing by one, the senior big man calmly stepped to the line with 15 seconds to play and knocked down a pair of free throws to give Glenbard East a 76-75 lead.

• West Aurora had a couple of final shots in the closing seconds, but the fireworks were finally over when Harvey blocked Spencer Thomas' game-winning jumper at the buzzer and Glenbard East claimed sole possession of the DVC title.

This is one of those nights that make you want to write a blog in the middle of the night.

This is one of those nights where you don't sound so crazy telling people at work the next day you went to a high school basketball game on a Wednesday night.

This was one of those nights where you remember how passionate the high school basketball game in this state can still be.

This is one of those nights where you realize just how boring that Raptors-Wizards game is and how insignificant the Kings-Timberwolves, Sixers-Cavs, Bobcats-Pistons, Suns-Blazers (Wow, there's a lot of bad NBA teams) match-ups are.

This was one of those nights where you wished you were able to get home from whatever game you took in and you were able to flip on SportsCenter for highlights of all the ones you missed but can't.

This was one of those nights where you were just glad you lucked out in picking the right game.

And it's not even March yet!

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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3 Comments

Joe, I was at the West Aurora Glenbard East game and your column is fantastic, you go home and you just don't want the euphoria to go away from watching such a great game, you want to watch it again on tv. Have you ever seen a quarter like the 3rd quarter the Rams put together last night? Defensively and Offensively it was the best I have ever seen.

Love reading your blog Joe. You are right about this time of the year. Fantastic stuff. And I go out to AAU events as well as a fan and after about 2-3 of them I'm sick of them. They so boring. I sat my behind home last night and wish I had made the trip out to a game like I normally would have.

That West Aurora, Glenbard East game was the best game I have seen in a long time. great basketball by to great teams. Both teams deserved to win, but Glenbard East took it home.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 21, 2013 3:26 AM.

Conference title tilt primer and some picks was the previous entry in this blog.

20 reasons why Jahlil Okafor should be POY is the next entry in this blog.

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