IN THE SPOTLIGHT
If his new boys basketball gig at Glenbrook South doesn’t work out for Phil Ralston, there’s always lifeguarding.
Or police work — as a traffic cop.
The man can whistle.
Sharply … no, piercingly.
The occasional shrill certainly gets the attention of his Titans (and spectators and refs and concession workers and folks living in Cook County) at crucial junctures of games.
“I learned how to whistle at a young age,” Ralston — the boys basketball coach at Geneva High School the past nine seasons, before succeeding Ben Widner at the start of the school year — said after a Bison Classic Thanksgiving Tournament game at Buffalo Grove High School last week.
“You won’t be the first person to write about my whistling.”
The man can coach, too. His 2014-15 Geneva squad (30-5) finished fourth in the Class 4A tournament, and his Vikings crew two years later won its first 26 games in a 31-game season.
Ralston went 193-77 at the Upstate Eight school and accepted the position at Glenbrook South with an overall record of 301-179; he had a 108-102 record in 11 seasons at Grant High School in Fox Lake.
“He has a lot of passion,” Glenbrook South junior guard Will King said. “I like his energy, his vision for us. I like what he preaches. Positive, upbeat — you see those qualities when he coaches.
“We’ve all bought in.”
Ralston, also an English teacher, has little need for a chair or a bench when he coaches. When the coach with the sharp-looking threads is not squatting and surveying the action intently in front of his team’s bench during possessions, he’s pacing and urging his Titans. At least four times during Glenbrook South’s 55-49 loss to the host school in a Bison Classic game on Nov. 22, Ralston barked, “Move! Move!” when his boys were on offense.
Something good on the court usually followed.
“Right now it’s about learning,” said Ralston, whose Titans (1-3) edged Grayslake Central’s Rams 41-40 in their tournament finale on Nov. 25. “It’s tough … we had a summer together to get to know everybody. At times there’s that urge to step on the gas, but fourth gear is not there yet.
“I liked what I saw against Buffalo Grove; better, a much better, effort from us. Our first two games [losses to Naperville Central on Nov. 20 and Zion-Benton on Nov. 21] were disjointed.”
Ralston, a Glenbrook North graduate, joined Cathy, a Glenbrook South graduate, in Holy Matrimony.
It wasn’t exactly a McCoy saying “I do” to a Hatfield, but fun-loving talk of the Spartans-Titans rivalry must have surfaced at the reception.
“No need to put that in there — where I graduated from high school,” the coach said. “But you can add this: My wife graduated with a class rank of two.”
His Titans used sharp three-point shooting to overcome an 11-0 deficit to BG on the day before Thanksgiving. South drained four treys, including a pair from senior guard Yianni Mavrakis, in the second quarter. In one particularly hot stretch — from 6:05 to 3:07 of the second frame — Ralston’s boys hit the Bison with a 12-4 run.
Glenbrook South secured its first lead, 25-24, with 29 ticks left in the half.
That also was the score at the half.
“Our bench had great energy,” said King, who finished with a team-high 14 points (10 in the second half). “The guys picked us up. It was nice to see the threes fall; that gave us confidence.
“I have confidence in my team.”
Junior guard Jimmy McMahon tallied nine points, junior guard Mac Hubbard scored eight, and Mavrakis (team-high 5 rebounds) and junior guard Gavin Morse each chipped in with six points.
King netted six of his team’s nine points in the third quarter.
Glenbrook South trailed 49-43 with 1:11 left in the final quarter, before BG produced a 5-0 run from the free-throw line.
McMahon tossed in South’s seventh and eighth three-pointers in the final 16 seconds.
Three nights later, in the defeat of Grayslake Central, sophomore forward Dom Martinelli led the Titans with 10 points, while Morse came down with a team-high six boards. A transition trey from Hubbard upped South’s advantage to 15 points midway through the third quarter.
“The team improved as the week progressed,” Ralston noted. “We saw better team play [vs. Grayslake Central] — something we need to continue to build upon.
“The perseverance against the adversity of playing good teams will make us better as the season progresses.”
Notable: Former Titans boys basketball coach Ben Widner coached 17 years at the school, including the last five as head varsity coach. His last squad went 9-18. … First-year Glenbrook South boys basketball coach Phil Ralston will coach against New Trier coach Scott Fricke at least twice in the 2017-18 season. Ralston coached against Fricke’s son, Zach, last weekend. The 6-foot-2 senior guard starts for Buffalo Grove High School. … Titans junior guard Will King, on Ralston: “He’s been teaching me how to be a leader for our team. I’m becoming a better person, too.”