Boys basketball: Glenbard North resilient in regional final win over Wheaton North

J.J. Hernandez’s three-point play helps Panthers hold off Falcons

Glenbard North's JJ Hernandez

CAROL STREAM – Kevin Tonn wrote the words ‘Resilience’ and ‘Response’.

Prior to his Glenbard North boys basketball team taking the court Friday, the fourth-year head coach knew how important each of those words would be in capturing the program’s first regional title since the 2013-14 season.

After leading from the opening tipoff – building a lead as big as 10 points – the Panthers trailed for the first time with three minutes to go on its home court and its season on the line.

J.J. Hernandez’s bucket plus a foul quickly seized back the momentum for Glenbard North and proved to be the difference in a thrilling 51-46 victory for the Panthers over Wheaton North.

Hernandez converted the free throw as part of Glenbard North (20-11) scoring the game’s final six points, keeping the Falcons off of the scoreboard for the final three minutes.

“I thought after falling behind there, our resiliency was spectacular,” Tonn said. “We knew with a team like that, that pressures you 100 percent of the time, turnovers are going to happen. We may have turned the ball over more than we’d like, but I thought the response and having that ‘next play’ mentality was huge for us tonight. I don’t know how many times we turned the ball over, but we would turn around and get a stop on the defensive end and that’s a big part of why we got the win tonight.”

The Panthers overcame 21 turnovers against that Wheaton North pressure but forced a couple of critical turnovers themselves in the final minutes. While the turnovers were lopsided in Wheaton North’s favor, Glenbard North dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Falcons, 35-18, thanks in large part to Jeremiah Raggs.

The senior forward snagged a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with his 14 points. Raggs and Hernandez (seven rebounds) had more rebounds than the entire Wheaton North team.

“I think it was just about us executing and taking care of the ball,” said Hernandez, who battled foul trouble much of the night. “With this being a [DuKane Conference opponent] and having played each other twice already, we are really familiar with each other. I think we just had to lock in during that fourth quarter and make the plays to get the win and I think we did that.

“We didn’t want this to be our last game. We’ve matured a lot as a group this year and we didn’t want this season to end.”

Glenbard North topped the Falcons in all three matchups this season after Friday’s win, including an overtime win in the most recent matchup two weeks ago.

The loss for Wheaton North (17-14) and its senior-laden group hits hard, despite a game-high 22 points from standout guard Hudson Parker. The Falcons started five seniors and just two players that saw playing time Friday night will return next season. Head coach Dave Brackmann knew his team was undersized, but was hopeful enough of the loose balls would end up in his team’s possession.

“I think you have to give credit where credit is due,” Brackmann said. “I felt like we battled to stay right there, but could never get over the hump, you know. We finally did there at the end and then they make a big play. I think at the end of the day, [Glenbard North] just made more plays than we did down the stretch. We had some real trouble rebounding with them being so aggressive on the boards. Guys were fighting, but they came up with more of those rebounds than we did and that eventually becomes a major factor in the game.”

The Falcons made just one 3-pointer after the first quarter (4 for 20 overall), which happened to be the go-ahead shot from Connor Spears at the 3-minute mark, which were the last points of the Falcons’ season.

Glenbard North advances to the 4A Addison Trail Sectional semifinals to take on the sectional’s top seed in Lake Park (29-3). In the first two DuKane Conference matchups with Lake Park this season, Glenbard North lost by a combined six points, including a buzzer-beating overtime defeat on Feb 2.

Chris Casey

Chris Casey for Shaw Local News Network

Chris Casey is a contributing reporter to Shaw Local News Network, covering high school sports in DuPage, Kane, and McHenry counties