Domination. Pure domination.
The juggernaut known as Glenbard West was the preseason No. 1 team, so the expectations were high. But as they marched through one of the toughest schedules in the state in overpowering fashion, those expectations grew in an almost overwhelming way.
Sold out gyms, endless headlines, beating up Young and blowing out Simeon, and talk of a guaranteed state title by midseason — by others, not within the program — can create an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance in most teenagers.
Yet Glenbard West’s players handled it all flawlessly. The team only grew and became more empowered as the wins piled up for the Hilltoppers.
The only blemish came in a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss to national power Sierra Canyon out of California. Very few times can a loss ramp up expectations. This one did.
The road to Champaign was a cakewalk. Zero March drama for Glenbard West. The Hilltoppers won every game by 26 or more points in regional, sectional and super-sectional play.
Next up is Bolingbrook in the state semifinals. Can the Raiders pull off a significant upset? What about upstart Barrington? Can Young win a rematch?
Or is a state title simply inevitable?
Today we get a chance to hear what coaches think about how to attack the state’s best team. We want coaches to speak truthfully, so they were given anonymity.
After reaching out to a dozen coaches who have played and lost to Glenbard West, here are their views and thoughts on how to at least try and beat the team no one in the state has been able to this season:
“Honestly, the truth is I am not sure how you beat them. They rebound just about every shot on both ends. They average 18 points a game on breakouts from turnovers. They have shooters. But here is something I would also say: They play the game right. No trash talking. Respectful kids.”
“Try to find a way to speed them up, force them into turnovers, and get them out of their comfort zone in the halfcourt. I’m not sure there is a team left in the tournament that can speed them up.”
“So unselfish and skilled and with multiple shooters who share the ball, they are so efficient. You can’t let them play half court basketball.”
“If you have an open three you have to absolutely take it because it is so difficult to score inside on them and you won’t get many looks.”
“You have to TRY and keep them off balance by giving them different looks defensively. If you can, try to create some turnovers and score before they can set up on defense.”
“If they pressure full court, you want to be able to break that and look for early scoring opportunities because in the half court it’s very difficult to find open opportunities. In the half court I believe you need to screen the zone and use dribble penetration to get into the gaps.”
“Ball pressure might be the only way to give them any sort of trouble when they are on offense.”
“You have to match their confidence early. If you don’t, they will take full advantage of your fear. If you don’t play with confidence early, once you finally realize you can play with them, it’s too late.”
“You first have to absolutely limit turnovers, regardless of the type of team you have. You have to take care of the ball.”
“On defense, it’s my belief you have to take something away. If you have size I would take away the three and make them beat me in the post scoring two-pointers. If you don’t have size you are very limited in ways you can play with them, because their size will negate any pressure you can put on them.”
“Only chance is to hold the ball and limit possessions.”
“They shoot 24 threes a game at roughly 40%, based on our prep work of 10 or so games, which accounts for just over 30 points a game. They get these in transition, off turnovers, and off offensive rebounds. You have to take away Warden and Durkin and make Pierce and Huff go score it above their 12-18 points they tend to score on any given outing.”
“They do not have one guy that can break down a defense and go get their own. Gotta make them play one-on-one. They can bully to the rim and score twos which is fine. Let them two you to death in the half court. You cannot bring two to the ball and allow them to get the ball moving to open shooters.”
“If you’re looking to see how to beat the 1-3-1, you need the guard play. Leo and Hillcrest did the best [against it] besides Sierra Canyon.”
“Don’t turn it over because Pierce gets it to the rim in a heartbeat, being he is at the top of the 1-3-1.”
“You cannot turn the ball over into dunks. If you do there is zero chance of beating them.”
“Playing from ahead would be important, I think. Would be so tough to come from behind against them due to how efficient they are offensively and how hard it is to score against them.”
“Limiting turnovers would be the key. Pierce at the top of the 1-3-1 is the biggest issue with his hands and length. They create offense from their defense and are a great defensive rebounding team. If somehow teams can get ‘easier’ field goals by turning them over or getting offensive rebounds, it would take the pressure off of scoring in the half court.”
“What they have now that they didn’t have early in the season is a dominating presence about them. They thought they were good. Now they know they are good. Good luck to those other teams in Champaign.”