GLEN ELLYN – Glenbard West may not look like the same team it did a year ago.
Those were high expectations to live up to.
The Hilltoppers had standouts Braden Huff, Bobby Durkin and Paxton Warden from a one-loss state championship team a year ago in attendance Wednesday night – on winter break from their college seasons – as the Hilltoppers took on Burlington Central.
While the players may look different, Glenbard West’s identity hasn’t changed The Hilltoppers put on a defensive clinic, forcing 21 turnovers in a decisive 59-45 victory over Burlington Central in nonconference play.
That 1-3-1 zone that was such an overwhelming force for Glenbard West a year ago may not have the same size and length this season, but the goal is still the exact same.
“That’s our identity and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. “We want tips, deflections and steals because that makes the game a lot easier. Then, that helps you on the offensive end because you don’t have to run offense. You can just get out and attack the rim in transition.”
The Hilltoppers (6-2) forced 13 of those 21 turnovers before halftime to propel themselves out to a lead that got as big as 10 just before halftime.
Luuk Dusek was the beneficiary of some good looks from those transition opportunities to lead the way with a team-high 24 points.
“So many guys got tips and deflections tonight that helped us get out and run,” said Dusek, who finished 7-for-10 from the field in the victory. “Overall, I think there was a lot of hustle and good effort from everyone out there to combine for a great team win.”
There was no doubt that the center of Glenbard West’s defensive game plan was to always know where Rockets center Drew Scharnowski was at all times. The 6-foot-8 Belmont commit finished with a game-high 26 points, but had just seven points in the first half.
Scharnowski felt his team struggled to find an offensive rhythm in a game that presented a big opportunity for his program.
“We don’t always get to come out here and play teams like this,” Scharnowski said. “We want to come here and prove we’re one of those top teams that can contend. It’s a disappointing tonight, but there’s always a opportunity to bounce back.”
Burlington Central (7-3) was able to cut the lead to eight at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a bucket by Scharnowski, but Dusek immediately answered with a 3-pointer to fuel a 7-1 Glenbard West run.
Opoka said while the lead felt comfortable, he felt the biggest reason for victory was cleaning up his team’s own turnovers and having players like Dusek step up when it mattered most.
“I think we did such a good job at attacking their pressure in the second half,” Opoka said. “We got to the free throw line, attacked their pressure and then our big-time players hit big time shots.
“[Luuk] is so efficient. He’s worked so hard at his craft. He’s a great shooter and if he gets open looks, every single one looks like it’s going in.”
Logan Brown and Dominic Seaney each added 11 points in the victory for the Hilltoppers.