Boys basketball: Alex Miller, Downers Grove North pull away from Waubonsie Valley into sectional final

Miller hits three early 3s, Trojans limit Warriors to one basket in 13-minute stretch of 41-28 win

Downers Grove North's Jake Riemer (1) reacts after sinking a three point shot during a Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinal basketball game against Waubonsie Valley at East Aurora High School on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024.

AURORA – Downers Grove North is the worst kind of team to be chasing points against with a season hanging in the balance.

The Trojans start four seniors, and are playoff-tested from a run to state last season. They guard, rebound and have multiple players who can make shots. And they’re more than willing and capable of extending long possessions.

“We just have confidence in our coaching staff and us as well, we drilled it all year, to stay composed in those situations,” Downers Grove North senior guard Alex Miller said. “Stay composed, level-headed, keep playing our game and not focus on the scoreboard but the possession.”

Miller and the Trojans put Waubonsie Valley in that rocking chair Wednesday.

He hit three first-half 3-pointers to loosen up Waubonsie Valley’s defense. Downers Grove North limited the Warriors to one basket over a 13-minute stretch in the second and third quarters and went on to a 41-28 win in the Class 4A East Aurora Sectional semifinal.

Miller scored 15 points, Jake Riemer had 11 points and eight rebounds and Princeton recruit Jack Stanton 10 points and five assists for second-seeded Downers Grove North (30-4), in a sectional final in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. The Trojans play top-seeded Bolingbrook Friday. Tyreek Coleman scored eight points and Ryan Morton six for Waubonsie (27-3).

Downers Grove North's Alex Miller (25) shoots a free throw late in the 4th quarter of play during a Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinal basketball game against Waubonsie Valley at East Aurora High School on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024.

All three of Miller’s early 3-pointers came in the corner against Waubonsie’s 1-2-2, the second drawing Downers Grove North within 17-16 after the Trojans trailed by six. Stanton followed with a coast-to-coast score to give the Trojans the lead for good, and assisted a Riemer basket to cap a 7-0 run to end the half.

“We were definitely dissecting the zone, whether that was short corner flash or corner 3 – they couldn’t guard everybody on the floor with that zone,” said Miller, who shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc for the game. “We did a great job with that middle catch and were able to space the floor, and my teammates were able to find me for open shots.”

After a low-possession first quarter that ended in a 5-5 tie, Downers Grove North found its groove, shooting 8 for 18 from the 3-point line.

“It took us a little bit to get settled into the 1-2-2, finding the soft spot and scoring actions, getting shots. Alex was huge in that first half,” Riemer said. “Once we started finding our rhythm where we could get scoring opportunities it started rolling.”

Coleman’s 3-pointer, followed by a spectacular reverse layup gave Waubonsie its biggest lead, 14-8 with 5:31 left in the second quarter. But the Warriors, leading 17-13, managed just one basket over the rest of the second quarter and entire third quarter. They shot 35.8% for the game with just two offensive rebounds.

“They play off each other well, one guy gets beat the other steps up. They’re tough, they like to play physical,” Coleman said. “It’s hard to score buckets on them in transition which is something we usually thrive on. They slow the game down and they got a lot of second-chance opportunities which hurt us in the long run.”

Downers Grove North's Jake Riemer (1) dunks the ball off of a back door cut against Waubonsie Valley during a Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinal basketball game at East Aurora High School on Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024.

Riemer, a 6-foot-8 senior, was a big part of that effort with three of Downers Grove North’s six offensive rebounds. The Trojans out-rebounded the Warriors 21-8.

On the first possession of the fourth quarter, a Riemer offensive rebound allowed the Trojans to maintain possession for over a minute. It ended with a Miller 3-pointer for a 31-20 lead, and Riemer followed with a three on the next possession.

“Our coaches have been focusing on that rebounding. We got dominated by Naperville Central our first playoff game,” Riemer said. “Rebounding is one of those stats that wins games, and was a huge focal point. Going out there, I knew I had to get some.”

Morton’s 3-pointer for Waubonsie with 3:27 left in the third quarter ended a Downers Grove North 13-0 run. But Riemer followed with a basket that ended a possession that lasted over a minute, and his offensive rebound kept the second long one going.

“I’m proud of the way we just kept chipping away, more so on the defensive side than anything,” Downers Grove North coach Jim Thomas said. “We just have some guys with some experience and war wounds that just feel comfortable in these kinds of games.”

The game ended a magical Waubonsie season that started 23-0 and ended with a DuPage Valley Conference title and only the program’s second regional championship since 2008.

“The word I’ll use is unbelievable,” Coleman said. “We got the school buzzing, accomplished some team goals. We wanted to continue going, we just fell short.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.