WHEATON – Brody Canfield joined his Wheaton Warrenville South teammates in pulling on orange championship T-shirts, climbed the ladder and cut down his strand of the net.
These kind of celebrations are nothing new in Wheaton lately. But to Canfield, a senior guard, it carried extra meaning.
“Last year, I didn’t really get to play that much. I just got to see from the sidelines what it takes to play Tiger basketball,” Canfield said. “This year, I’ve got to play a little bit more of a role. And it feels great.”
WW South, which wrapped up its third consecutive DuKane Conference championship by beating Lake Park on Feb. 10, sealed the outright title with a 46-28 win over Glenbard North in the regular-season finale Feb. 15 in Wheaton.
Canfield, who usually comes off the bench, scored a team-high 11 points and had three steals in a Senior Night start. His steal and runout three-point play was part of a 15-0 run bridging the second and third quarters in which the Tigers took control.
“Oh, my God, we have been dreaming about this since we were little kids,” Canfield said. “From little Tiger basketball players to now, it’s like a dream come true.”
Braylen Meredith added nine points and eight rebounds and Jake Vozza also scored nine points for WW South (26-5, 12-2).
The Tigers won Feb. 15 the way they so often do – with stifling defense.
WW South, trailing 11-8 after a quarter, held Glenbard North (15-15, 4-10) scoreless for the entire second quarter to go ahead 21-11 at the half. The Panthers went almost an entire two quarters without a field goal until JJ Hernandez’s score in the final seconds of the third quarter broke the dry spell.
The Tigers’ ball pressure seemed to wall off the lane for the Panthers throughout the night, pushing them farther and farther out and allowing few clean looks.
“Coach just tells us to close off the lane. Don’t even let them split you,” Meredith said. “And if they do, I’ll be the first one to either step up and take a charge or contest a shot. We’re not doing anything different than we’ve ever done. We’re just playing hard.”
That makes things hard for teams such as Glenbard North.
Hernandez, who scored 12 points, knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter to give his team an 11-8 lead. But Glenbard North went 10 minutes without a score and had only three free throws over an almost 16-minute stretch. The Panthers turned it over nine times and had only 11 shot attempts over the middle two quarters.
“That second quarter killed us. They do the little things right and they play hard and under control,” Glenbard North coach Kevin Tonn said. “Got to be able to control the basketball, be tighter with the basketball. I thought we got some good looks. Unfortunately, they couldn’t go down.
“Their defense is consistent. They apply pressure, but they’re able to apply pressure under control. With a young team, it hurt us.”
Meredith put the exclamation point on things with a coast-to-coast, soaring one-handed dunk early in the fourth quarter.
He took greater pleasure in seeing fellow seniors Elpidios Han and Christian Triscik make scoring contributions in their last home game.
“I’ve been playing with a lot of these guys since I was 6, 7 years old. To do this on Senior Night, on our home floor, it means the world to me,” Meredith said. “You love to see those guys shine. That’s what this night is all about.”
While the Tigers basked in the present, the future looks bright for a Glenbard North team whose best player is a junior, Hernandez, and starts a freshman and sophomore. The Panthers open regional play against defending champion Glenbard West.
“We are trying to build consistency and figure out how to do things the right way, which is a learning process,” Tonn said. “Some of these guys were in eighth grade last year. It’s fun being able to see the progress throughout the season. This is a tough one but excited about the postseason.”