Willowbrook boys basketball coach Chris Perkins senses the intensity rising with his team as the Warriors inch closer to the playoffs.
Playing rival Addison Trail on Friday didn't hurt.
A double-digit lead scarily shrank in the final minutes, but Willowbrook held on for a 61-56 West Suburban Gold win over the visiting Blazers in Villa Park.
Jordan Garcia's three-point play pulled Addison Trail (7-19, 0-12) within 59-56 with 29.5 seconds left, and a missed 1-and-1 opportunity at the other end gave the Blazers a final shot to send the game to overtime. A missed 3-pointer led to a pair of Josh Joiner free throws as the Warriors (5-20, 2-10) pulled out the victory.
Both of Willowbrook's Gold wins this season came against the Blazers.
"That's our sister school, so we just wanted to come out and play hard for our fans," said Joiner, who scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. "It's been rough so far, but we've been coming together as a team and I think we're ready for the playoffs. Our goal is to win a regional championship."
Neither team held more than a 5-point lead through the first three quarters that featured six lead changes and 10 ties. Willowbrook's 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter grew to an 18-4 burst after Dan Hay's bucket that increased the Warriors' advantage to 57-45 with 2:33 left in the game.
Addison Trail didn't fade as Tyler Little scored 4 points, Jason Kirschbaum scored on a putback and Garcia converted the three-point play.
It wasn't quite enough to help the Blazers notch their first Gold win of the season. After making 7 of 11 shots in the first quarter, Addison Trail shot just 37 percent from the field the rest of the night.
"I thought we had that competitive element tonight, and we had it last week against Downers South, but it's kind of been missing in general," said Blazers coach Brendan Lyons. "But I'm proud of their effort tonight, to give ourselves a chance to tie with 15 seconds left."
Ryan Rader had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Willowbrook, which beat the Blazers 42-31 on the boards. Addison Trail's Vince Beltrano scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half.
"Give Addison Trail credit, they kept fighting," Perkins said. "We have to clean that up with the playoffs coming, but you can sense the intensity's going to another level. Hopefully, it pays off."