Glenbard West is a football school, right? Like Maine South or Mount Carmel or Joliet Catholic or Montini or Loyola, right?
So what is coach Tim Hoder's basketball team doing with a 10-0 record and holding a pair of holiday tournament championship trophies going into the New Year?
Is this the same team that was picked to finish fourth in the West Suburban Silver in the preseason behind Oak Park, York and Proviso West?
Is this the same school that has qualified for the state finals only once in its history -- in 1938?
Is this the same program that has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only twice in the last 74 years?
The same school that hasn't won a conference title in 40 years?
Maybe you've heard of John Shurna?
Yes, it's that Glenbard West.
The Hilltoppers are off to a 10-0 start, best in school history, better than the 9-0 start of the 1973 team that was led by Jim Molinari and Bob Hildebrand. They'll seek to extend their winning streak at Bolingbrook on Wednesday, then resume conference play at York on Friday.
"Depth is our biggest asset," Hoder said. "We play 10 kids regularly in the first quarter. We also have size. And we're now able to handle pressure. In the past, pressure was a problem. We got pressured and it bothered us. And we have camaraderie, a lot of togetherness as a group. We have some leaders you don't notice in the scorebook.
"But what our 10-0 start told me is we have to get to the meat of our conference schedule yet. We have a lot of getting better to do. We can compete in our league and get a good seed in the sectional. But even though we attack pressure well, we still turn the ball over too much. We need to cut down on turnovers. And, for our size, we have to be more dominant on the boards. We do well but we can do better."
One of the leaders who is noticed in the scorebook is 6-6 senior Michael Mache, who averages 23 points per game. He has been on the varsity for four years and he has noticed how the team has evolved, how it went from 11-17 a year ago to 10-0 this season.
"Our goal is to win the conference and go to the supersectional, to do some things that haven't been done before. The sky is the limit if we keep working hard and cut down on turnovers," Mache said.
"Our camaraderie is the best it has ever been. This is the tightest knit group of all. We push each other every day in practice to do our best. And we are deep at the guard position, which we haven't been in the past.
"We can get up and down the court. We thrive in the full-court and attack the basket and we're more aggressive than before. In past years, we used to slow it down and play in the half-court.
"We want to keep it rolling. We're 10-0 and we want to keep doing what we are doing. This is the first year we are keeping a fast pace going, moving at a new pace, getting clean stops, getting rebounds, getting the ball to the point guard (Jeff Levesque), getting up the floor, creating easy shots and keeping the defenders off balance."
Mache (pronounced Mackey) is surrounded by his twin brother Matthew, a 6-6 senior who averages 10 points per game, 6-8 senior Pat Mazza (8 ppg, 10 rpg), 6-1 junior point guard Jeff Levesque (8 ppg, 6 assists) and 5-10 senior Justin Taylor (6 ppg).
The second five also gets plenty of playing time--6-4 senior Mac Corbin, 6-6 senior Vernon Harris, 6-1 senior Egan Montgomery, 6-1 senior Kevin Loftus and 6-foot sophomore point guard Cory Davis.
How identical are the Mache twins? Matthew wears No. 42, Michael wears No. 41. Both weigh 205 pounds. Michael claims Matthew has a wider face and a more aggressive personality but he has a better three-point shot. Hoder said Michael is one of the team's leaders on and off the court.
"(In a recent game), to start the second half, I had a layup and the announcer said it was Matthew," Michael said.
Hoder, 43, a Lake Park graduate of 1986, knew what he was getting into when he arrived at the Glen Ellyn school 10 years ago. He had played basketball for his father, attended Augustana College, coached at Ridgewood for one year, then Maine East for eight years before being hired at Glenbard West. He is in his fifth season as head coach.
"I grew up going to a doctor in Glen Ellyn so I was familiar with the school and the tradition," he said. "I knew what I was getting into, a great football tradition. They had great success in football in the 1980s and in recent years. Any success we are having now is because we have a core group of seniors who have invested themselves in basketball."
Actually, the fact that Hoder landed at Glenbard West didn't have anything to do with football or basketball.
"After being at Maine East, it was a matter of wanting to find a place to settle down with my family and raise kids, the community we wanted to live in," he said. "That was the factor why I ended up at Glenbard West. The fact that our kids can go to a school like Glenbard West was important to us."
It has taken time to put a winning program together. When he arrived, Hoder realized there were many multi-sport athletes at the school. "It is hard to compete in basketball because kids in our league are playing basketball year-around," he said. But he also knew he had a group of 10 seniors who had stuck together through thick and thin because they wanted to succeed.
Last year's 11-17 team wasn't as bad as it seems. The Hilltoppers lost six games in overtime. And Levesque was sidelined until Christmas after undergoing thumb surgery.
"We went 10-10 with him. If we had him healthy, we wouldn't have started 1-7. He is a big part of our success," Hoder said.
There are other things in Hoder's favor. The feeder program, the Glen Ellyn Titans, hosted a 70-team tournament last weekend. Hoder's son Thomas, a fifth grader, is one of 40 players who participate in travel basketball.
"So many kids are growing up playing basketball now," the coach said.
"Coming into this year, we had high expectations," Michael Mache said. "We want to finish our four-year run. We knew this could be a great opportunity. With a lot of hard work, we feel we can do this. We want to do things that never have been done before. We want people to remember this team."