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New Trier’s Sean Boyd shoots over Glenbrook South’s Conor McCarthy during the regional final. Boyd helped shut down McCarthy in the second half and was one of several juniors who excelled for the Trevians on Friday. | Nic Summers/for Sun-Times Media
WINNETKA — Leading scorers Jordan Thomas and Ricky Samuelson are seniors, but New Trier’s 2013-14 boys basketball team is a relatively youthful bunch.
The fourth-seeded Trevians, who are scheduled to play top-seeded Loyola in the sectional semifinals tonight, start three juniors and have five juniors among their 10-man rotation.
After opening the season 6-6, New Trier won 15 of its next 18 games, and the continued maturity of the younger players was a major factor in the team’s improvement.
“At the beginning of the season, we did not have much experience on the varsity level and throughout the season we’ve progressed and gotten better,” junior Robbie Abuls said. “We’re used to the pressure now. We’ve matured and our leaders have shown us how to play and how to finish tight games.”
That confidence was on display in New Trier’s 51-45 victory over Glenbrook South on Friday in the Class 4A New Trier Regional final. After Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the first three quarters, the junior class got the job done in the fourth.
Abuls scored nine of his 12 in the final quarter and junior guard David Hammes had eight of his 13 in the fourth as the Trevians took control of a game that they led by one point after three quarters. Their contributions were essential as Samuelson (2-for-8, 4 points) had a bit of an off day.
“JT [Jordan Thomas] had a great first half, but they keyed on him [in the second half] and focused on Ricky [Samuelson] too,” Hammes said. “So, some of the juniors got open, and we hit our shots.”
New Trier junior centers Sean Boyd and Ryan Haak also contributed in the second half against Glenbrook South.
The 6-foot-5 Boyd and the 6-3 Haak had to defend 6-6, 225-pound senior center Conor McCarthy, and they looked a bit out of their depth early as the Titans big man had 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
But Boyd and Haak bounced back after halftime, holding McCarthy to just one basket and four points after the break. Boyd finished with four points and grabbed six rebounds, including a few important boards down the stretch.
“[McCarthy] is a lot bigger than me. I’ve been undersized [against opposing centers] all season,” Boyd said. “[Coach Scott] Fricke was telling me to play bigger than I am. [McCarthy] was leading their team and we just had to put our foot down, really get on him every play, box him out, never leave him.”
After playing on the perimeter while on lower-level teams, Boyd said he’s been learning how to mix it up down low. He said the lessons will make him a well-rounded player should he be needed in a more inside-outside role next season.
“[Playing inside] will help me,” he said. “My finishing ability has gotten better this year, my rebounding, my physicality has grown a lot because of this.”
Haak is another player whose perimeter skills may be needed next season, especially after guards like Samuelson, Adam King and Peter Lazic graduate.
“Haak is a good shooter,” Fricke said. “We’re asking him to do things because of the [lack of] size of our team. He’s obviously taking it for the team. He’s not a post player. He can step out and shoot. He’s a good shooter. I don’t anticipate him playing the five next year, but we’ll see how everything works out.”