VILLA PARK – A brief illness caused Willowbrook’s Terrell Walker to miss a recent practice.
That meant Walker had to start Tuesday’s home game against Morton on the bench.
The Mustangs wish he had stayed there.
After missing his first two shots, Walker sank his last 10 and finished with a career-high 23 points to lift the Warriors to a 64-49 West Suburban Conference Gold Division victory. The senior guard scored his team’s final 17 points, starting with a buzzer-beating reverse layup at the of the third quarter.
“He was phenomenal today,” Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins said. “He did a great job finishing.
“I thought our guards did a great job getting the ball into the middle, collapsing the defense. Then they were able to find him sneaking in behind the zone.”
[ Photos: Morton vs. Willowbrook boys basketball ]
Walker, a senior guard, had only six points until the buzzer beater. Morton (6-8, 2-1) had cut a 14-point deficit to 42-38 on a great spin move by Jamari Ball, but Noah Campbell answered by hitting a pull-up 3-pointer for Willowbrook.
After Morton’s Victor Garrett split a pair of free throws, Campbell found Evan Stubblefield for a 15-foot jumper and Walker followed with his layup to give the Warriors (9-8, 3-1) a 49-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“I’m just really appreciative of my teammates that got me a lot of (passes),” Walker said. “Shots were falling tonight and I’m glad to get the win.”
Walker put on a show in the fourth quarter. He shot 8-for-8 and had three steals and three offensive rebounds. scoring all of Willowbrook’s points.
Most of Walker’s points came on layups, backdoor cuts or short baseline jumpers behind Morton’s zone.
“The kid played the game of his life,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said. “He got us on the boards, too.”
Walker’s production was made more vital considering Morton held Willowbrook’s top two scorers, Marquel Saleek and Campbell, relatively in check.
Saleek missed 11 consecutive shots at one point and didn’t score in the final 11 minutes, finishing with 13 points on 5 of 22 shooting, while Campbell had eight points on 3 of 9 shooting. Both had three assists, though, and Stubblefield contributed eight points, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists.
“Marquel is usually our leading scorer, so I knew I had to step up big,” Walker said. “They were in a zone. I was just glad I was in the right place at the right time.”
Ironically, Martinucci said he should have used the zone defense from the start. The Mustangs began the game in a man-to-man, only to see the Warriors race out to a 21-7 lead.
“If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t come out and play man,” Martinucci said. “We got down and then everybody got in foul trouble, and it went downhill from there.”
Garrett led Morton with 15 points and seven rebounds, but scored only one point in the second half, missing his last seven shots. Armani Flowers added 12 points, while Ball and Dakari Dunham each scored eight.
With the win, Willowbrook avenged an earlier 66-64 loss to Morton and moved a half-game ahead of the Mustangs in the WSC Gold standings.
“We’re playing really good right now,” Walker said. “We’re on a five-game win streak, so we’re starting to wake up a little bit.
“We’ve got Leyden on Friday at home and we’re ready to keep the victories coming.”