Glenbrook North’s clutch free throws take down Taft
The Spartans held on to beat Taft 57-56 in a Class 4A regional semifinal game at Evanston. They did it at the free-throw line, shooting 8-for-8 in the final 25 seconds.
With just 1:09 left to play and Glenbrook North leading Taft by three points, sophomore Josh Fridman hit the court hard and waved for a trainer to come over. He was holding his shoulder and it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to finish the game.
Fridman had played very well up to that point, displaying guile and skill that few point guards in the area have shown this season. But now the Spartans were going to have to hold off Taft’s late charge without him.
“It sucked the air out of our team,” Glenbrook North junior Ryan Cohen said. “Sucked the air out of the building. Everybody got quiet. We all love Josh and it was tough to see him go down. But we kept saying ‘do it for Josh’ and ‘do it for each other.’ So we knew that good things were going to happen.”
The Spartans held on to beat Taft 57-56 in a Class 4A regional semifinal game at Evanston. They did it at the free-throw line, shooting 8-for-8 in the final 25 seconds. Every shot was crucial, as Taft’s Michael Dempsey drained a three just before the final buzzer.
“We had a game against New Trier that we let get away and didn’t close at the end,” Spartans coach Quin Hayes said. “This one we were able to close. The first playoff game is always difficult. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is. I’m proud that they were able to close at the end without Josh.”
Glenbrook North senior Brandon Gordon, who didn’t attempt a free throw previously in the game, made the final two free throws with five seconds to play.
“I had confidence the whole way,” Gordon said. “I had watched [Cohen] make those four in a row earlier and I believed in myself and they went in.”
Cohen finished with 23 points. He has had a tremendous season, teaming with Fridman and senior Blake Lidskin to help bring some basketball excitement back to Northbrook.
“I always liked to shoot, since I was really young,” Cohen said. “I would say I became a decent shooter in sixth grade. When COVID happened, right when it started, I got to go to a gym by myself and I really locked in. I worked on a lot of game shots and the shots I needed to take. I think that’s really where I got boosted into the shooter I am today.”
Fridman finished with 14 points and Lidskin added 10. The Spartans (23-7) led by nine after three quarters.
Senior Gideon Adewole spearheaded the Eagles’ late comeback, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Dempsey finished with 15 points for Taft (17-12), and junior Armin Aliloski added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“These guys battled all year,” Eagles coach Andre Harris said. “I couldn’t be happier. This was our first year together and they put up a fight. I couldn’t ask for anything more from these guys. The seniors led the way. It stinks we lost but they left it all out on the floor.”
Glenbrook North will face Evanston, a 58-49 winner against Schaumburg, in the regional final Friday night. The Spartans split two conference games with the Wildkits.
“We’re assuming [our next opponent] will be Evanston and it is always tough playing them,” Cohen said. “But we are gonna come together. This is playoff basketball. We gotta survive and advance.”
Watch the final minute of Glenbrook North vs. Taft: