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Warriors fall to Benet in a sectional final

Willowbrook beats Naperville North before losing to the Redwings; Warriors finish season with a 26-6 record

By Chris Fox

The Willowbrook boys basketball
team’s season ended with Friday’s
67-40 loss to Benet Academy in the
championship game of the IHSA
Class 4A Glenbard East Sectional in
Lombard. The Warriors, who trailed
Benet 30-26 at halftime, couldn’t
keep up with the Redwings in the
second half. Benet increased its lead
to 46-36 by the end of the third quarter.
The Warriors managed only four
points in the fourth period.
Benet improved to 27-4 and advanced
to this week’s super-sectional
game against Elgin-Larkin at Northern
Illinois University.
Willowbrook, which won its first
regional title in 14 years on March
2, advanced to the sectional final by
beating Naperville North 47-43 in
Lombard on March 6. The Warriors
finished their special season with an
overall record of 26-6. This season’s
team set a new program record for
victories in a season. Last season’s
Warriors established a new record by
winning 24 games during the 2016-
17 campaign.
Willowbrook trailed Naperville
North—the sectional’s No. 1 seeded
team—20-12 at halftime. The Warriors
rallied in the third quarter to
grab a 30-27 edge with eight minutes
to play.
“The kids have been fighting all
year,” said Willowbrook coach Chris
Perkins after the win over Naperville
North. “We’ve been down before.
Our outside shots started falling, and
then it’s like an avalanche.”
Willowbrook, which was seeded
fifth in the sectional, couldn’t duplicate
its second-half success against
Benet, the sectional’s No. 2 seed.
The atmosphere was electric
during both of the Warriors’ sectional
games in Lombard. The Willowbrook
student body came out in full
force for each game to support its
team. The Glenbard East gymnasium
was packed to capacity for Friday’s
sectional final; some late-arriving
fans weren’t allowed in because
there were no seats available. Benet
brought its own raucous student section
for Friday’s battle.
Willowbrook sophomore Everett
Stubblefield, who was called up to
the varsity team in January, helped
to spark his team’s second-half rally
against Naperville North. Stubblefield
did not score in the first half,
but he poured in 12 points, including
three 3-point shots, during the third
quarter. He closed out the period by
draining a long 3-pointer to give the
Warriors a 30-27 advantage.
“I saw the clock going down,”
said Stubblefield of his shot at the
end of the third quarter. “I felt the
crowd’s energy. I already hit two
threes before that.”
“He came in, got hot and gave us a
boost,” said Perkins of Stubblefield.
“The rest of the guys fed off of that
energy, and our crowd got into it and
we were able to build momentum.”
“I was a little bit nervous,” said
Stubblefield after the win over the
Huskies. “But once I got in the mood
of the game, I started to calm down
and it started coming to me.”
Stubblefield and senior Ethan
Schuemer both scored 16 points in
the Warriors’ win over Naperville
North, which finished its season with
a 26-3 record. Schuemer scored four
baskets during the final quarter. His
steal and layup gave the Warriors a
38-31 lead with about four minutes
to play.
“At halftime we kind of regrouped,”
said Schuemer after the
sectional semifinal. “We made sure
we came out with much more energy
and much more intensity in the second
half. It was crazy. Our fans were
huge tonight. It was a lot of fun.”
An offensive rebound and basket
by senior Matt Myers pushed Willowbrook’s
lead to 44-39 with a little
more than one minute to play. The
Huskies scored a basket to cut the
Warriors’ advantage to 45-43 with
9.8 seconds to play.
Following a time out, Myers
passed to Schuemer, who sent the
ball to an open Stubblefield, who
drove for a victory-sealing layup
with a few seconds remaining.
Benet held a 15-9 lead over Willowbrook
after one quarter of Friday’s
sectional final. The Redwings
built a 21-9 lead early in the second
quarter, but Willowbrook sliced the
lead to as low as two points later
in the period. Junior Scott Tumilty
sank a pair of 3-point shots for the
Warriors during their second-quarter
surge. Schuemer’s dunk cut the
Redwings’ lead to 26-22. Myers then
added a basket to trim Benet’s lead
to 26-24. Schuemer added one more
basket in the period to cut Benet’s
lead to 28-26.
The Redwings, who built their
lead to 46-36 by the end of the third
quarter, padded their lead by opening
the fourth quarter with a 10-1 run
to grab a 56-37 advantage with five
minutes to play. The Warriors’ starters
headed to the bench with about
three minutes remaining.
Schuemer, who spent three seasons
on the varsity, scored 15 points
in his final game as a Warrior. Tumilty
added six points with his two 3-point
shots. Junior Matas Masys scored
five points by making all five of his
free-throw attempts. Senior Sikander
Zafar also scored five points, while
Myers provided four points.
Benet made seven of 16 shots
from 3-point range. Willowbrook
connected on just three of 19 attempts
from beyond the 3-point line.
“You’ve got to give credit to
them,” said Perkins after the season-
ending loss to the Redwings.
“They’re really good. They were
prepared for what we were doing. We
fought and fought. We didn’t quit, regardless
of the score. I told our guys
not to hang their heads. I’m proud of
how they continued to improve and
get better.”
Perkins noted that the team’s regular
starting five this season—Schuemer,
Myers, Zafar, senior Neil Paxton
and Masys have all spent the last
three seasons on the varsity. Masys
will return next year for his senior
“I couldn’t be prouder of this
group of seniors,” said Perkins.