ELMHURST – On its way to a program-record 32 wins and first-ever trip to the state tournament last winter, Downers Grove North came up short on one goal – a West Suburban Silver conference championship.
That all changed last weekend.
One night after clinching at least a share of the title, the Trojans secured their first outright league crown in more than 20 years with a 44-38 win against York on Saturday.
Alex Miller played the role of hero, hitting three 3-pointers from the corners in the fourth quarter after the host Dukes, who trailed 26-12 at halftime, had pulled to within three points.
Those were the only field goals over the final 15 minutes for Downers Grove North (25-4, 11-1). Miller finished with a team-high 17 points.
“It’s big, especially coming off last year when we came up short [of a conference title by one game to Hinsdale Central],” Miller said. “It was definitely one of the goals we had coming into the season. We played good team basketball and we were able to finish the job.
“I thought we did a great job as a team breaking their press. I was able to space out and they were able to find me. My teammates were able to get me open and I was able to step up and hit the shots.”
A.J. Levine did all he could for York (22-7, 8-3), scoring a game-high 23 points, including 10 in the final period. It was his 3-pointer that brought the home team to within 30-27 with 5:30 left in the game.
The Dukes earlier used a 9-0 spurt in the third quarter to draw closer, eventually trailing by six heading into the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Kyle Waltz at the horn.
Waltz finished with eight points.
“We didn’t play a very good first half,” York coach Mike Dunn said. “That was the difference in the game. They are so tough to score on, so being down 14 you are facing an uphill battle. They were coming off three games in four days so maybe that caught up to them in the second half but I thought we were also much more active.
“Our kids competed. They fought hard. But Downers Grove North is very good, they are well-coached and they know how to win. They will be a tough out in the state series.”
York recently was selected the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A Addison Trail Sectional.
“Our team has great leadership from the seniors and our juniors and sophomores have been fantastic.” Dunn said.
Jack Stanton’s hot shooting propelled Downers Grove North to the double-digit advantage against York. Stanton hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter, including one at the buzzer. He scored 15 points.
Downers Grove North also defeated York 49-25 on Jan. 19.
“We had a game [Friday] night and didn’t have a chance to prepare for them too much,” Stanton said. “And they had three days to prepare for us. We knew it would be tough and that the environment would be packed and fun. We stayed within ourselves and were able to pull it out as a team together.
“This means a lot. [Friday] night, we clinched a share [with a 50-28 win over Glenbard West] but we wanted it all for ourselves. Our goal all year has been to win as many games as possible. Nobody is selfish. We just want to win together.”
Aidan Akkawi had seven rebounds for the Trojans, who shared conference titles in 2020-21 and 2002-03.
Downers Grove North, winners of eight in a row, are the No. 2 seed at the East Aurora Sectional.
“Coming out of halftime we said it was going to come down to the wire,” Downers Grove North coach Jim Thomas said. “York played really darn well in the second half and it’s just good to get one on the road against a really good team.
“This is a group of really good kids and families. There is never an issue and there are always people willing to help. It’s a joy to be around such good people. And everyone is pulling in the same direction. It is always one day at a time and we just want to make sure we get to enjoy another day together. And we will go as long as we can.”