CHAMPAIGN — Xavier Amos was one of the area’s most consistent players this season. Young’s 6-8 senior was an All-City, All-Area and All-State selection. He didn’t post huge numbers in every game, but he always made significant contributions, from tipoff to final buzzer.
So it was curious that the NIU recruit didn’t score in the first half of the Dolphins’ 51-47 victory Friday against Barrington in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Suddenly, in the fourth quarter, Amos came alive. He scored eight of his 10 points and made two crucial free throws with nine seconds to play.
Amos was suffering from a migraine and wasn’t sure if he would be able to play.
“He didn’t dress early, but then came out of the locker room with his uniform on and said he took something,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said.
Turns out the fourth quarter is when the Tylenol finally kicked in.
“As the game went on, I started to get my body together, and my head wasn’t hurting,” Amos said.
Young doesn’t have to rely on Amos alone, of course. The Dolphins are more loaded with offensive firepower than at any point in the season. Daniel Johnson, recently back from an injury, has been a force lately. He had 10 points and four rebounds.
Junior Marcus Pigram, who missed the supersectional win against Kenwood with an injury, is at full strength, as well. Pigram has been one of this season’s breakout college prospects. He added 12 points and three rebounds.
Pigram, Johnson and Amos are long and athletic, as is 6-8 Miami recruit AJ Casey and 6-6 senior Matt Somerville. That size gave Barrington fits when Young turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter.
“Young did a great job defensively, and we got a little uncomfortable in the second half,” Barrington coach Bryan Tucker said. “You can’t duplicate their athleticism or length. That’s a tough combo. I was watching film and wondering, ‘What college team is this?’ ’’
Will Grudzinski led Barrington (28-5) with 24 points and was 4-for-9 from three-point range. Daniel Hong added 11 points and four assists and Evan Jno-Baptiste scored 10 and grabbed five rebounds for the Broncos.
“Grudzinski was a problem,” Slaughter said. “He was phenomenal tonight. He’s had a great tournament.”
Barrington went on a 15-0 run in the first quarter and led 31-24 at the half. Young responded with a 10-0 run to open the third quarter. The game stayed close after that, but the Broncos committed several turnovers in the final few minutes, and Young went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 43 seconds to seal the win.
Young (26-9) will face Glenbard West in the state title game on Saturday. The Hilltoppers beat Young 74-59 on Jan. 22.
“Anytime you get to play the last game on the last day of the season, it is gratifying,” Slaughter said. “These young men put in the effort every single day.”