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With eight seconds to go in the game, Willowbrook held a slim 49-46 lead over the tournament host Glenbard West.
The Hilltoppers called one final timeout to organize their offense for one final shot while Willowbrook’s head coach Chris Perkins preached to his team of holding their own and stepping up on defense.
After Glenbard West’s (7-3) last attempt to tie the game up with a desperation three missed wide of the basket, Willowbrook’s (6-6) bench and crowd erupted with jubilation as the Warriors secured a 49-46 win.
It has been a long and hard road for Willowbrook to climb back to an even record, and they will now face their conference foe, Leyeden, in the 11th Annual Holiday Classic Saturday night.
Warriors guard Josh Joiner contributed nine points in the first half and sent his team to the locker room with a comfortable 23-16 lead at halftime.
Joiner filled up the stat sheet, finishing with 13 points, five steals, two steals and one rebound.
However, Glenbard West caught fire immediately after the half, scoring 18 points in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers’ 6-foot-4 forward Nathan Marcus added four points in the third and his height advantage over Willowbrook made him a force on the glass, becoming a rebound machine in the second half. Marcus recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Glenbard West’s shooting guard Dikiria Washington added seven points in the third quarter and he would finish the game with a team-high 16.
With Willowbrook’s lead slowly deteriorating, the Warriors went to the lane hard in the waning seconds to draw important fouls and make key free throws to secure a narrow victory over Glenbard West.
Despite being exhausted and exasperated from their victory, Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins is thrilled to be one of the last teams standing in the tournament.
“We told them it takes a whole team and everyone has to step up. This has been the big difference right now.”