In a tournament dominated by the West Suburban Conference, it was fitting that the championship game would come down to a WSC Gold showdown between rivals Leyden and Willowbrook.
After being down by 11 points in the early going, Leyden bounced back as they have all season long, and won a 67-53, as Jonthan Woolf put the team on his back with a 29 point outburst. Woolf and Anthony Gonzalez accounted for 70% of the Eagle’s total scoring, combining for 48 points.
Individually Gonzalez had a double-double, and was a monster inside the paint and on the glass in the fourth quarter, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Gonzalez was huge in his first performance since coming back from an injured knee.
Junior Aaron Stocks, who filled in nicely during Gonzalez’s absence, played some solid minutes for Leyden, shutting down Willowbrook’s Joshua Joiner, who finished with 16 points. Joiner had a hot hand early, but he cooled off in the second half, as did the rest of Willowbrook offense.
Omar Lozyoa, the hero of Leyden’s last home game against Hinsdale South, was eager to show of his range in his outside shooting, and lights-out from behind the arc, sinking threes from both elbows, well beyond the IHSA regulation 3-point line, and closer where the NCAA line would be.
The momentum shifted back and forth throughout that game, but the biggest turning point for Leyden occurred midway through the third quarter. On an inbounds pass from Junior Nick Best, Woolf caught the ball in midair, and in one smooth motion, drained an 8-foot floater over two defenders.
Then, right after a Willowbrook timeout, Stocks drained a long three-pointer right in Joiner’s grill, on a play set up with a steal from point guard Jay Jackson, who swung the ball around to the top of the key, which was highlighted by Lozoya’s sweet headfake and dish to Stocks, and in just one swift motion, the Eagles were up by 11 points, after being down by as much as 13 in the first quarter.
The Eagles closed out the game despite strong performances from Willowbrook’s Joiner (who led the Warriors with 16 points), Nick Kilianek (13 points) and Tiger Greene (12 points). The win puts Leyden at 10-3, giving them their second tournament victory, ( the first was the Ridgewood Invitational in November) and the benefit of what was essentially an extra conference game to prepare for their next contest against Willowbrook, January 11.
If the Eagles can maintain this momentum heading into the second half of their season, they are a force to be reckoned with in the West Suburban Conference, and should remain a fun and exciting team to watch.