DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — As the lowest remaining seed in the IHSA playoffs, Downers Grove North made an early statement at Monday’s super-sectional that they belonged.
The Trojans ripped off an 18-0 run in the first quarter against top-seed Kenwood, and never looked back in their 67-47 win.
“It was awesome. It was just one of those things where you feel the atmosphere. You play off each other. Once you get that, you get into a rhythm,” explained senior guard Max Haack. “You can’t even put it into words.”
“Everyone always says you feel like you’re in control, but it never really feels like that from the sideline,” joked DGN head coach Jim Thomas. “I’m really proud of the kids. They stuck with it right from the start, all the way to the finish.
“I think the students kind of spread out all over the place in the gym really gave them some confidence to go out there and play as hard as they did.”
Led by junior Jack Stanton, who scored a game-high 19 points and received a scholarship offer from Dartmouth on the team bus after the game, the Trojans won their 19th straight after dropping back-to-back contests in early January.
“We came together as team and were like, ‘Do we want to keep doing this or do we want to go to the next level?'” Haack remembered. “Once we hit that next gear and got to the playoffs and beat Whitney Young, I think that’s where I thought, ‘Okay. We can really do something special.”
“I grew up with all these guys. We all live like five minutes apart from each other. We’ve all been hanging out since third or fourth grade. It’s like my brothers, basically,” noted Stanton. “It’s awesome to do it with them and have the whole community – teachers, students, parents, friends, family – all behind us.”
DGN clinched the program’s first trip to state in front of a crowd packed with purple and some special guests sitting courtside – Bulls stars DeMar DeRozan, Ayo Dosunmu, Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry.
“It was crazy because I didn’t know they were coming,” remarked Haack. “When all of a sudden I see them walk past me, it’s like, ‘Those are the guys I play 2K with. Those are the guys I pretend I’m playing one-on-one with on my mini hoop. Being able to see those guys in person and watch them watch my game, it was awesome.”
Now the Trojans look to make more history – a 20th win in a row Friday against Moline would earn them a spot in the state championship game.
“I think it’s going to be pretty cool. We’ve played at two college arenas this year – Northwestern and UIC – but obviously this one’s the big one in Champaign – University of Illinois – representing Downers Grove and all of Illinois there,” Stanton stated. “That’ll be cool.”
“I thought we were going to be pretty good. I thought we were going to have a solid season, but never in million years would I have thought we’d be going downstate, especially with a young team like we had,” added Haack. “I knew we’d be solid, but I never thought we’d be going where we’re going.”