GLEN ELLYN – The faces sure have changed but the end result didn’t.
Logan Brown led the way with 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Hilltoppers, who graduated all five starters and nine players overall from a team that went 37-1 while capturing the program’s first state title.
“It was super nice to get those (first game) jitters out of the way,” Brown said. “I thought we played really well as a team. We moved the ball, defended well, rebounded.
“We are not as experienced as a lot of groups but we play super hard and we play together. We have a lot of chemistry, we’ve played with each other in the past. We play to our strengths and everyone plays their role.”
Glenbard West’s extended zone gave the visitors trouble at the outset, as five quick Raiders’ turnovers led to a 9-0 lead. The Hilltoppers, who forced 17 turnovers for the game, led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter and 25-14 at halftime.
Glenbard South, which was led by the 12 points and six rebounds of Jalen Brown, went on a 9-0 third quarter run to pull within 31-26 but would get no closer.
D’Manuel Payton added eight points and two steals.
“We showed some fight,” Glenbard South coach Wade Hardtke said. “Unfortunately we got off to a bad start and we were playing catch up the rest of the way. That made for a difficult night. Too many unforced turnovers and we didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half.
“We have a lot of work to do defensively and we have to learn to value the ball. But we did show good fight and we will build off that.”
The Hilltoppers ended the third quarter on an 8-0 spurt of their own to push the margin back to double-digits.
“We have super high expectations,” said Brown, who added three steals and a blocked shot. “Nothing changes. Obviously we lost our guys (from last year) but it’s next man up. We have to step up and be ready for anything.”
Benii Zander also checked into double figures with 10 points and Jack Oberhofer, fresh off playing in a semifinal football game on Saturday, contributed eight points. Dominick Seanev and Luuk Dusek had six points apiece.
“We obviously don’t have a lot of experience coming back from last year,” said Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka, whose team went 14-4 during the summer. “It was very important to come out with energy. I thought we got a little tired but they battled through that. Our guys were committed to getting on the glass and on defense, our rotations were very crisp. It’s all about the fundamentals, those little fundamentals will make us successful as well as our attention to detail.
“Logan is talented and he’s great at the top of our 1-3-1. He’s a great leader too. Benii and Logan are our most vocal leaders. They are playing this year with confidence and they should, they played against the best last year (in practice).”