For the Glenbrook South varsity boys’ basketball team, expectations have been set.
This is a Titans team that believes it has the makeup to compete for a state championship this season. So even though Glenbrook South (5-0) convincingly defeated Lake Forest, 71-54, inside the Titan Dome for its first home game of the season, the takeaway was how the team could still make improvements.
And it starts with playing better team defense on back cuts and limiting ball watching. So, what needs to be done to address those areas?
“We are going to watch film, that’s where it starts,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “Were there moments where we played really good defense? Yes, absolutely. … But I think we just have to have our discipline a little bit better. I’m cringing because we gave up 54 points when we are giving up an average of about 40. That’s more than I like to see.”
Going into this matchup with Lake Forest (3-2), the focus was to try and limit one of the best juniors in the state: Asa Thomas. The Titans’ defense limited Thomas — who has several offers from major Division 1 programs, including Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin — to 18 points. Ralston still believed his team could’ve done a better job.
But there were some aspects about the victory that Ralston did like.
“The one thing we did really well in this game was our transition was fantastic,” Ralston said. “When they didn’t score, our ability to get down the floor and really attack the rim put them in trouble.”
What also gave the Scouts trouble was the senior duo of Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard. Martinelli finished with a game-high 25 points and Noard ended with 22 points. At the end of the first quarter, Noard scored 16 points and went 4-of-5 on three-pointers.
“My teammates were feeding me and I was open and I was knocking them down,” Noard said. “I was just feeling the energy. That was it, and I caught fire.”
Outside of Noard making triples and Martinelli getting to the rim and finishing with his left hand, there were several other Titans, like senior Spencer Brown and junior Gavin Marr, who made key contributions throughout the game.
“I thought in moments Spencer Brown was fantastic,” Ralston said. “His court awareness, seeing the floor and making the extra pass, things that won’t be in someone else’s stat book, he did very well tonight. … I thought Gavin had a lot of really good transition baskets. When he switched off and he (Marr) was on Asa, he did a fantastic job of knocking passes away.”
Brown finished the game with seven points and Marr added 10 points. For Lake Forest, senior Alex Forowycz finished with a team-high 21 points.
Ralston mentioned that members of this team have stepped up throughout the first five games of the season, and that will have to continue for Friday’s Central Suburban League South matchup against Evanston.
“We got to make sure everyone is one the same game plan for Friday,” Noard said. “That is the next step.”
For the Glenbrook South varsity boys’ basketball team, expectations have been set.
Phil Ralston knows each time Glenbrook South steps on to the basketball court, his team has a target on its back.
As the Glenbrook South varsity boys’ basketball coach, Ralston’s Titans have a 45-7 record the past two seasons. They finished 16-2 earlier this year in a condensed season that didn’t feature a state basketball tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one’s not going to know about us,” Ralston said. “Those days have ended.”
A big reason for that is seniors Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard.
The duo scored 700 combined points in 18 games as juniors last season, and both have committed to playing Division-I basketball at the next level: Martinelli at Elon University and Noard at Cornell University.
“There aren’t too many teams in the state that can claim that they have two All-State basketball players coming back and playing for them,” Ralston said. “That is something I’ve never had as a coach. So to have two high-level players coming back this year it makes a huge difference.”
As a sophomore, Martinelli played on a Glenbrook South team that won 29 games, so he knows what it is like to be a part of a good unit. But the 6-foot-8 shooting guard believes this year’s Titans can be special.
“I think we will be the best team the school has had ever,” Martinelli said. “We definitely have the most talent that I’ve ever seen at a public high school gym. We have so many guys that can come in and score, and we have guys that just want to get down and play defense and work hard.”
As for Noard, whenever someone asks him what the expectations are for this year, he always responds with the same answer.
“It’s to win a state championship,” Noard said. “It doesn’t really matter how we get there, how hard it is, what we do to get there. That’s my one goal.”
In order for the 2021-22 Titans to become the best team in school history or to win a championship, they are going to need more than just Martinelli and Noard to accomplish those goals.
Last season, Glenbrook South had seniors Matthew Rosenberger and Justin Leszynski they could count on. The two finished as the team’s third and fourth leading scorers, respectively. Rosenberger scored 115 points and Leszynski added 100 points. And as seniors, they also provided leadership for the team.
Junior Rodell Davis Jr. — also known as RJ to his coaches and teammates — is someone that Ralston, Martinelli and Noard view as bringing those same qualities for this season.
“I really think that RJ has become such a good leader this year,” Martinelli said. “It’s crazy just to see how much he has grown from sophomore to junior year.”
For Davis, he wasn’t surprised to hear his coach and teammates express their confidence in him.
“Over this past offseason, I’ve been in the gym everyday lifting, getting better. I feel like I’m bigger, stronger,” Davis said. “So I was kind of expecting it and I’m prepared to take on the role.”
Ralston, Martinelli and Noard also expressed confidence in senior Spencer Brown and junior Gavin Marr. The talent is there for Glenbrook South, and that’s why Ralson and the rest of the Titans’ coaching staff have constructed a schedule that will test the players.
This season, Glenbrook South is slated to play teams like Glenbard West, Simeon, and, of course, conference rival New Trier. Chicago Sun-Times editor Michael O’Brien ranked all three of those teams — including Glenbrook South — in his Super 25, with Glenbard West at No. 1, Simeon No. 5, Glenbrook south No. 6 and New Trier No. 9.
The Titans began their 2021 season competing in the Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Classic Varsity Boys’ Basketball Tournament. Glenbrook South defeated Elk Grove, 91-49, on Monday for its first game of the year. And followed that performance with a 79-32 victory over Jacobs the next day.
Next up, Glenbrook South will face York on Friday and finish the tournament on Saturday. This week’s worth of games is just the beginning of what the Titans expect to be a highly productive season.
“I think we have a group that is mentally tough. They’re hungry,” Ralston said. “They want to try and accomplish something that our program has never done, which is to win a sectional. Great aspiration. We certainly have the talent and capability to do it. Now it’s a matter of being able to put it all together, with no guarantees that it is ever going to happen.”
In middle school Nick Martinelli was a huge UFC fan.
He grew so fond of the sport that at one point he even thought his interest would turn into a profession.
“I wanted to be a mixed martial arts fighter,” Martinelli said. “Everything was UFC. I was a huge Connor McGregor fan. In eighth grade, I got sick during the (basketball) season, and that’s when I would go in my basement and punch this little dummy guy that I had.”
Even though Martinelli never pursued his mixed martial arts aspirations, that fighter’s mentality has stayed with him.
His competitiveness needed to materialize early in his basketball career because he was always competing with his two older brothers, Jimmy and Dom Martinelli. Both had successful careers at Glenbrook South and went on to play collegiate basketball.
Jimmy — the oldest — was two-time all-conference and named the team MVP his senior year at Glenbrook South and went on to be a four-year starter at New York University. Dom finished as the Titans’ all-time leading scorer and just wrapped up his freshman season at Northwestern.
For Nick Martinelli, seeing his older brothers’ accomplishments was sometimes difficult to deal with.
“To be honest, I felt a little bit in his shadow (Dom’s) and Jimmy’s too when I was younger,” Martinelli said. “It’s just hard when you have older brothers that were as successful as they were.”
But now, the youngest Martinelli is making a name for himself. As a full-time starter in his junior season, the 6-foot-7 wing averaged 21.8 points and 5.9 rebounds and shot 57.7% from 3-point range in 18 games. Martinelli was also named to the Central Suburban League All-Conference Team.
In his first game as a starter, Martinelli scored 28 points in a 69-49 victory against Hersey. It begin an 11-game win streak to start the season for Glenbrook South. In the ninth game of the season, against New Trier, Martinelli dropped 34 points in a 60-53 win.
On offense, Martinelli’s left-handed jumper and ability to secure rebounds for second-chance points made him difficult to defend for any team. Often in opposing team huddles coaches can be heard saying, “We have to do a better job against Martinelli.”
Defensively, Martinelli’s length forced players to take tough shots and required them to make precise passes. He finished the season with 10 blocks and 15 steals.
Although Martinelli has quickly emerged as one of the better upperclassmen in Illinois, it didn’t come without him having to overcome obstacles.
Heading into Martinelli’s sophomore year, he thought he made the necessary improvements in the offseason to earn a varsity spot. But Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston started Martinelli on the sophomore team.
“It just lit a fire up in me to be honest,” Martinelli said. “When he (Ralston) told me I was on sophomore, I felt a little confused.”
After playing five games on the sophomore team, Martinelli was moved up.
“Nick had to earn everything and he did so admirably,” Ralston said. “When we lost Joe Shapiro last year, Nick was the first guy off the bench and was getting what I would term ‘starter’s minutes’ in many respects. That was something he had to earn.”
Martinelli embraced his new role and helped the team anyway he could. Glenbrook South finished the 2019-20 season 29-5 and split the Central Suburban League South title with Evanston. The Wildkits did eliminate the Titans in the Class 4A Elk Grove semifinals.
Still, Martinelli gained valuable experience in his sophomore year. And a lot of those lessons can be attributed to the one season he played with his brother Dom.
“He wanted to win at every single drill,” Nick Martinelli said. “If you want to be great, you can’t take off drills, you can’t take off days, you always have to be the last one in the gym. I learned a ton of characteristics and good habits from him that are obviously going to benefit me in the future. I owe a ton of my success, which hasn’t been much, to Dom.
“The way that he constantly fought,” Martinelli continued. “He played when he was sick. He played when he was hurting. And how much he wanted to win obviously showed me what I needed to do to take the next step.”
Though Dom Martinelli graduated, everything was looking promising for Glenbrook South moving forward. Nick Martinelli and point guard Cooper Noard — who started as a sophomore on varsity — would be back to help lead the Titans the following season.
Then COVID-19 hit. And everything changed.
“The unusual aspect of having to deal with COVID is that we didn’t have our normal summer routine where we were able to work with kids in a team atmosphere and an individual’s environment,” Ralston said.
Despite the coronavirus’ impact on and off the basketball court, Martinelli still saw an opportunity for himself to improve his game over the summer so he would be ready for his junior season.
Every morning Martinelli and Dom would shoot for roughly two hours at their friend’s gym, which features a shooting gun, a three-quarter basketball court and a weight room. Throughout the summer, it was common for the Martinelli brothers to be at their friend’s house for 4-to-6 hours. After a long day of doing basketball drills and working out on the turf field, the two would jump in the hot tub to recover.
Dom also invited some of his teammates from Northwestern to train.
“Something that I think got Nick to another level to where he is playing at now was being able to play with some of my teammates from Northwestern,” Dom Martinelli said. “Being able to compete with Big Ten players, I think that is one of the reasons why Nick has gotten so much better this offseason.”
Along with the workouts, Martinelli watched a lot of film over the summer.
From Dom’s senior season at Glenbrook South to Florida Gulf Coast and several Big Ten teams, to NBA players Luka Doncic and Doug McDermott, Martinelli dissected different basketball styles and tried to pick up bits and pieces from everything he watched.
All the hard work Martinelli put in during the offseason translated on the basketball court. And Dom Martinelli, who was able to catch some of his brother’s games in person, could see the progress his brother made.
“I think his confidence has skyrocketed since last season,” Dom Martinelli said. “I think that’s just due to all the work he has put in … I think he has gained confidence in that aspect. I see it in every single game.”
And for Nick Martinelli — who has had to work for everything he has accomplished — he, Noard and senior big man Justin Lesynski were the leaders for the Titans this past season.
“I think Nick is very much a leader by example,” Ralston said. “I want Nick, Cooper and Justin to assert themselves as leaders on the team … It’s kind of hard for me to not say to guys like Nick and Coop, ‘You guys are the ones that have put in as much time as anyone in this offseason,’ so it’s hard for me as coach to not go back and say, ‘Hey, this is your team. You guys are the leaders of this team. We are going to go where you take us.’”
The 2020-21 Glenbrook South team finished with a 16-2 record and as back-to-back CSL champions. In the condensed season, the Titans also set a school record for winning percentage at 89 percent.
At the end of the season, eight teams had the opportunity to participate in the Chipotle League of Champions tournament. Evanston was initially selected as the Central Suburban League representative for the tournament, but the school offered it to winner of the division. Glenbrook South overtook that spot when Evanston lost to New Trier on March 6.
Two days later, Glenbrook South traveled to face the Trevians, with an opportunity to extend its half-game lead on Evanston. The Titans dominated for the majority of the first two quarters and at one point had a 22-point lead. Martinelli led all scorers with 12 points at the half. But the Trevians made a miraculous comeback and had a 63-61 lead with 47.8 seconds remaining in the game.
After a 10-second violation, Martinelli was fouled under the basket with 10.8 seconds remaining on the clock. The junior stepped up to the free-throw line with an opportunity to tie the game.
Martinelli took his one dribble and shot. The ball hit the front of the rim and bounced left. Martinelli’s second shot hit the rim and bounced right.
“That’s definitely one of my worst moments in basketball,” Martinelli said. “Honestly, the worst part about it was I trained for moments like that. I don’t train for making easy layups against bad teams. I train for making big shots against good teams and in important moments … But it’s a learning experience. Everyone misses shots. Michael Jordan has missed shots. Big shots. I have to work harder and patch up some things.”
The Titans lost 64-63 to the Trevians. Glenbrook South rebounded with back-to-back wins against Glenbrook North to end the season. However, it was Evanston that went on to play in the end-of-the-year tournament.
Martinelli acknowledged that it was “painful to watch” the teams competing in the Chipotle Classic. But he does believe Glenbrook South has the players to do something special next season — as long as the team has the right mentality.
“I think that we are going to be really deep and really skilled next season,” Martinelli said. “It all comes down to if we really want to put in the work to become state champions, and if we want to buy into what coach wants us to do.”
Martinelli’s routine now involves waking up before school to shoot at his friend’s house to reach his daily “300 makes each morning,” then getting a workout in once school is over.
With the high school season finished, that doesn’t mean Martinelli gets to take a break. In April, his AAU season will begin and Martinelli will compete against some of the best players in the country.
Martinelli does all this because he is a competitor, a fighter. He has been this way since day one.
“I want to become a high-major player,” Martinelli said. “That’s my goal. My goal used to be to become a Division I player, but now it’s moved to something bigger because I want to strive to be the best player, the best person that I can be.”
Main image courtesy of Braeden Schmidt
With 2:08 remaining in the second quarter, New Trier was down by 22 points to Glenbrook South on its home court.
For the Trevians, the outcome looked bleak. But the team never flinched.
When the final buzzer sounded, the New Trier players ran to center court, celebrating after their 64-63 comeback victory against the Titans.
New Trier coach Scott Fricke couldn’t have been more proud of his group.
“We came out so flat today, and I think it has to do with playing two emotional games against Evanston this weekend, not having a day to prep, there were a lot of things we could have used as excuses,” Fricke said. “Our kids just decided to play harder, reach from within, and you kind of saw what happened.”
The Trevians (10-2, 6-2) ended the first half on a 12-3 run to make it a 37-24 game going into the third quarter.
“We talked at halftime; it’s not like we are going to get the lead back in one minute,” Fricke said. “Let’s just chip away and play solid basketball. We’re still in the game.”
It started with New Trier’s adjustment to use a 1-3-1 defense. This forced Glenbrook South (14-2, 6-2) into turnovers and New Trier took advantage.
“We started getting very lazy with passes and we stopped moving against the zone,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “It was just like the perfect storm.”
One of the other reasons why New Trier made its comeback was because of junior forward Jackson Munro, who ended with a game-high 21 points.
After picking up two early fouls, which forced him to sit for a good portion of the second quarter, Munro scored six in the third quarter. Sophomore Jake Fiegen added another six points in the third, and New Trier trailed by one entering the last eight minutes of play.
Glenbrook South junior Cooper Noard started the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to give the Titans a 53-49 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. Noard finished with a team-high 18 points.
But the Trevians kept fighting and Glenbrook South’s 22-point lead was all but gone. With one minute remaining in the game, New Trier was tied 60-60. A few seconds, after Josh Kirkpatrick’s two made free throws, the Trevians were up 63-61.
Despite having the lead, New Trier junior Karlo Colak — who scored nine points — knew the game was far from over.
“It was at the moment we were up that we needed to play the best we have played the whole game,” Colak said. “We needed to finish this thing off and not let this chance slip away.”
The comeback will go down as a memory Colak, Fricke and the entire New Trier team will never forget. The Trevians now move into a tie atop the CSL South standings in the loss column (two, with Evanston and Glenbrook South). New Trier’s win over Evanston Saturday put the Titans in the driver’s seat for the end-of-season Chipotle Clash of Champions slot guaranteed to the CSL South champion. Evanston now takes the bid with a win over Maine South on Wednesday.
On Friday night inside the Titan Dome against Niles West, Glenbrook South juniors Cooper Noard and Nick Martinelli proved why they are some of the most prolific scorers in the state.
Noard and Martinelli both finished with 23 points in a convincing 60-41 victory over the Wolves, improving the Titans record to (13-1, 5-1).
“They’re really hard to stop together, especially when both of them are clicking,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “If one guy is going off and you try to take him away, the next thing you know the other guy is wide open, so it creates some problems.”
Noard scored the first points of the game with a three in front of the small student section. He went 4-of-5 from distance and added a 7-foot jump shot in the first. In the third quarter, the 6-foot-2 point guard made both of his 3-pointers.
“They (Niles West) came out in a zone, and my teammates were finding me and I was getting open shots,” Noard said. “I was able to knock them down. My teammates trust me. They give me shots when I was open and I was able to take advantage.”
When Noard is converting on his shots, he has “the green light” to keep on shooting. But even if he does miss, Noard knows that Martinelli will be in position to give the team an opportunity to get some second-chance points.
Out of Martinelli’s 23 points, only three came from long range. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard did a majority of his scoring inside. His 10 points in the third quarter gave Glenbrook South a 55-33 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“I think we have probably the best offense in the state when me and Nick are both on our games,” Noard said.
He also added that with the help of the seniors on the roster it only makes Martinelli’s and his game “even better.”
One of the seniors is Justin Leszynski, who finished third on the team in scoring with 8 points. He also had a blocked shot with 1:57 remaining in the second quarter that ricocheted off the backboard and led to a transition layup from Martinelli.
For Niles West, junior guard Moses Leblanc finished with a team-high 18 points.
Going into the game, Niles West coach Mike Wasielewski knew it would be a challenge trying to contain all of the playmakers that the Titans have on their roster.
“I think I saw fight the whole game,” Wasielewski said. “With the talent they have, they could have blown us out by 20 in the first half and they didn’t. Our guys fought. Again, we don’t have some of the same fire power that they have. I’m happy we competed and hoping some of the younger guys can develop.”
Glenbrook South led Evanston for almost an entire quarter on Saturday at the Titan Dome — the second game of a back-to-back for the teams. But as the final seconds of the period were about to expire, Evanston’s Blake Peters ran down the middle of the lane and got a put back to give Evanston a one-point lead.
It was all Evanston the rest of the way.
The Wildkits only grew their lead as the game went on and would end up defeating the Titans, 68-54, giving Glenbrook South its first loss of the season and, more importantly, splitting the season series with the Titans. The teams are once again tied atop the CSL South standings at 4-1.
Peters had a team-high 28 points for the Wildkits, and junior point guard Rashawn Bost finished second in scoring for Evanston with 13 points.
For Glenbrook South, junior forward Nick Martinelli ended with a game-high 31 points, and fellow junior point guard Cooper Noard was second with 11 points.
The Wildkits started to extend their lead in the second quarter behind Peters’ 11 points. At halftime, the Wildkits had a 34-21 advantage.
Martinelli finished with 15 points at the end of the first two quarters, and only senior small forward Matthew Rosenberger (four points) and junior forward Brandon Ballarinin (two points) made the stat sheet in the first half.
In the third quarter, the Wildkits broke the game open. After Martinelli scored the first points of the second half with a layup, Peters followed that up on the next possession with a 3-pointer in front of the Evanston bench.
Evanston forced a turnover on Glenbrook South’s next offensive possession and Bost completed a three-point play, scoring on a layup and adding a free throw. Shortly after, Bost made a three-pointer to make it a 20-point lead with roughly 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Glenbrook South did go on a 6-0 run to make it a 43-29 game with 3:40 left in the quarter, but the Titans couldn’t get it much closer than that. Evanston would go on an 8-2 run to close out the quarter, giving them a 51-31 lead heading into the last eight minutes of play.
Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston did change up his defense in the fourth, utilizing a zone look, which forced a turnover on the first possession and an Evanston timeout on the next one. But the Wildkits still had firm control and ended up having to shoot free throws to close out the game.
With the victory, Evanston improves to 9-1 on the season and will face Maine West on Monday. After the loss, Glenbrook South is now 11-1 and will host Maine West on Tuesday.
Nearly three minutes had passed and Glenbrook South was still searching for its first basket of the fourth quarter.
After Evanston’s Blake Peters’ acrobatic layup, Glenbrook South senior Drew Maytum inbounded the ball to fellow senior Matthew Rosenberger in front of the Evanston bench. Junior point guard Cooper Noard ran down the middle of the court and Rosenberger passed the ball to him. Noard extended his arms, secured the ball and spun off his man to make the contested floater.
Noard would go on to score eight points in the final minutes, including one of his patented three-pointers. Behind Noard’s team-high 18 points, Glenbrook South defeated Evanston, 61-55, at the Beardsley Gymnasium to improve to 11-0 on the season.
Fellow junior Nick Martinelli finished second in scoring with 15 points. And Rosenberger, who missed four free throws in the first half, ended third in scoring for the Titans with 11 points, making 2-of-3 free throws in the fourth quarter to help keep Glenbrook South in control of the game.
For the Wildkits, Peters had a game-high 22 points with 10 of those came in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Elijah Bull added 10 points. Going into halftime, the Wildkits had a 29-25 lead over the Titans.
But it was in the third quarter where the Titans came back in the game. Glenbrook South scored 18 points, including three made triples, one each from Noard, Maytum and junior Brandon Ballarinin. The Titans had six different players score, and this helped give Glenbrook South a 43-40 edge going into the final quarter.
To start the game, Glenbrook South and Evanston were both playing lock-down defense, as each team had to work to find their shots. The Wildkits had five players score in the opening quarter and had a 14-9 advantage after the first eight minutes of play.
With the victory, Glenbrook South is in sole possession of first place in the Central Suburban South Conference. But Evanston will get another opportunity to even the series with Glenbrook South, as the Wildkits will travel to the Titan Dome on Saturday to finish their back-to-back games.
Before heading into his senior season at Glenbrook South, Justin Leszynski knew exactly what he wanted to improve in his game.
Over the last summer and winter, the 6-5, 210-pound big man made it his primary focus to become quicker and to improve his perimeter defense.
“I think I have done a pretty good job at that, but there is still room to grow,” Leszynski said.
As a multi-sport athlete, also playing center striker for the Titans soccer team, Leszynski credits the skills and movements he learned on the soccer field for helping him on the basketball court.
“He has improved physically so much from last season,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “I think when you have been a part of a program, no matter what your role is, but when you have been a part of a program that had this much success as our team did last year, it has a sense for those younger kids to translate to wanting to uphold that level of play.”
Last year, Leszynski was one of those younger players. As a junior, Leszynski learned the importance of being “ready to step in when the other team tries to take away those other options” while he played alongside Dom Martinelli — a Northwestern freshman and Glenbrook South’s all-time scorer.
That mindset has carried over to this season and has helped the Titans remain undefeated through their first nine games.
With junior forward Nick Martinelli — Dom Martinelli’s brother — and junior point guard Cooper Noard as the primary scorers, Leszynski’s role is to complement the duo. He does so with a perfectly-timed three-pointer or a rebound under the basket leading to a fast-break opportunity.
All of Leszynski’s hard work — on the court and in the classroom — finally paid off when he found out he had been accepted into MIT.
“The minute we opened the letter and there’s the animated confetti on the screen it really just made my year and it was one of the happiest moments in my life,” Leszynski said. “It was a lot of stress waiting to hear back. I know not everyone gets their first choice with getting into their (preferred) schools. … So it was just a tremendous moment of happiness to finally be able to announce where I’m going to be able to end up and play my next four years and continue playing the sport I love, which is basketball.”
Leszynski’s father, Ed, and mother, Amy Jo, were ecstatic when they heard the news. For Ed Leszynski, he has appreciated just being able to watch his son play his senior season.
“He has always wanted to really play with his friends, and he has known these guys since kindergarten, second grade,” Ed said. “The other two seniors that start, they have been on the same team since second grade. Either soccer, baseball or basketball, so to finish on that, you can’t write a better script to finish your senior year with your best friends playing a team sport.”
For Justin, he is still finishing the final script for his last season at Glenbrook South. As of now, the Titans have 10 games remaining on their schedule, including two matchups against Evanston — the team that eliminated Glenbrook South in the Class 4A Elk Grove semifinals last year and that split the CSL South title with the Titans.
Regardless of what happens with the rest of the season, Ralston is proud of what his senior big man has been able to accomplish in his high school career.
“We’ve seen so much growth from Justin,” Ralston said. “We always knew he was the type of kid that was going to get into a school like MIT. Very high IQ, very cerebral kid. Getting into a great school like that was not the surprise. How far he has come in 16 months, as a basketball player, if someone would have told me that in November of 2019, I would say that might be a stretch for him. I don’t think it is now. It’s because he, once again, put in that unrequired work in the offseason, and I think it’s playing dividends for him now.”
From Glenbrook South’s starting five to the end of the bench, the Titans played relentless defense all game against visiting Highland Park.
When a lane potentially looked open, senior big man Justin Leszynski was there to close it. When Highland Park set a screen, senior small forward Matthew Rosenberger was there to tell his teammate to switch. When a pass went into the middle of the defense, junior forward Spencer Brown was there to tip it.
“I really try to compartmentalize our practices to work on things we are going to see in the games,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “We probably don’t spend longer than 15-to-20 minutes working on our shell defense, but during that shell, we expect all of our kids to be engaged and how we expect them to defend.”
For Glenbrook South, how the players practice manifests itself in the games. The Titans defeated the Giants, 62-29, staying undefeated and improving to 8-0 on the season.
To compliment the Titans’ defense, Nick Martinelli added a team-high 21 points, scoring 10 of those points in the second quarter. Cooper Noard also had a 10-point quarter in the third, finishing with 15.
Noard started his night 0-for-4 from three-point range in the first half but made all three of his attempts in the third quarter.
Ralston wasn’t worried about his star point guard missing his shots in the first half.
“None of them are bad looks, they just didn’t fall,” Ralston said. “He’s such a good shooter. Once he hits one, he’s going to hit two, he’s going to hit three, he might hit four. You got to watch out.”
Highland Park, on the other hand, didn’t have a bounce-back performance at any point throughout the night in the Titan Dome. A majority of the Giants’ offense was spent passing the ball outside of the 3-point line from one side of the court to the other, searching for answers.
Billy Rudman led the Giants with 10 points, and Ben Shamberg scored six points.
The 62 points scored in tonight’s game was the fifth time this season the Titans have eclipsed the 60-point mark.
Glenbrook South has had plenty of success on that side of the ball, but Leszynski — who scored seven points — knows it all starts with the defense.
“I like to think that the other team can’t beat you if they can’t score more points than you,” Leszynski said. “I like to embrace doing whatever I’m needed to do on defense … A lot of our offense comes from defense. I know when we are playing well defensively we are one of the best teams in the state.”
The roughly 40 fans in attendance at Glenbrook South’s game against Maine South at the Titan Dome only saw one layup from the home team in the first quarter.
What they also witnessed was Glenbrook South making five three-pointers in the first eight minutes of play.
The Titans were just getting started.
Glenbrook South went on to make 12 total triples in a 64-46 victory over Maine South, improving its record to 6-0 on the season. On Friday night, the Titans made eight 3-pointers in a 55-33 win.
Glenbrook South junior Nick Martinelli credited the team’s defense for the success they have had on offense.
“Each person just doing their job, being on the help side and guarding their own man — that’s all we basically do in practice,” Martinelli said. “We’ve had long, boring practices just working on defense and being in the right spot. In the game it works and it helps and it makes the game a lot more fun.”
Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said that the practices may be “monotonous” at times, but Ralston likes to put his players in game-like situations that will create “game-ready shooters” instead of “drive-way shooters.”
One of those “game-ready shooters” is junior guard Cooper Noard, who had 10 total triples in home-away series with the Hawks.
“Anytime you got a really good point guard, you got a shot at being really good as a team,” Ralston said. “When you got a point guard that can also score, that opens up your game to a completely new level. Teams are focused, five guys on him. A lot of our actions are trying to free him up for open looks. But the other aspect of it is that our offense is also designed to get other people in positions where they are going to get open looks too. The more teams have to focus on some other guys it frees up Cooper even more.”
Martinelli is one of the players that benefits from the attraction Cooper creates. Martinelli and Noard tied for a team-high 18 points.
Glenbrook South outscored Maine South 21-10 in the third quarter to give the Titans a 62-31 lead heading into the final frame, essentially putting the game out of reach. Ralston put in his bench with about 5:40 left in the game, and the backups played a majority of the fourth quarter.
Maine South, now 4-2 overall, had a brief lead in the game, when the Hawks were leading 9-6 with 4:46 left in the first quarter. Maine South coach Tony Lavorato knew this second game against Glenbrook South would be a challenge, especially since starter Ryan Leyden was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s game.
“We don’t get a chance to practice with the kids who will be replacing him, so we are kind of doing things on the fly and through walk-throughs,” Lavorato said. “Were we leg weary? I don’t know, but the bottom line is they also played four games. They did a much better job than we did finishing the week strong. We are going to learn and get better and get stronger. That’s kind of what it’s about.”
Ralston anticipated Maine South would make some adjustments from the previous matchup, so Glenbrook South countered with their own changes, and also knocked down shots from long range.
“We tweaked some aspects of our offense that we expected them to do against us, and they worked,” Ralston said. “Then we had all the different kids that hit threes … that opens things up.”
Other Game Notes
- Glenbrook South senior forward Justin Leszynski committed to MIT on Friday, Feb. 12.
- Glenbrook South junior wing Nick Marinelli received his first D-I offer Saturday, from St. Thomas.
- Sean Gallery led the Maine South with 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
- Marko Anderson had eight points and eight rebounds for Maine South.