Lions go cold late against OPRF

Tied at 50 midway through the fourth quarter, LTHS goes scoreless rest of game

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

Over the years, there have been several competitive high school boys basketball games between Lyons Township and Oak Park and River Forest. The Lions and Huskies are longtime West Suburban Conference Silver Division rivals, and whenever they meet, team records can be discarded because it's sure to be a battle. 

The latest installment of the rivalry took place Friday, Dec. 8 in Oak Park, with the Huskies prevailing over the Lions 57-50.

From the opening tip, the tone of the game was a gritty, hard-fought contest which is common in West Suburban Silver play.

Tyrese Shines led LTHS with a game-high 18 points and Lazarius Williams added 12 points. Nolan Niego struggled from the field for the Lions, making just 3 of 12 shots for six points.

LTHS coach Tom Sloan credits Shines for his significant progress as a varsity player.

"He's improved a lot," Sloan said. "Ty is bigger, stronger and can finish in traffic. He has improved his jump shot, rebounding and defense. I think he's done a lot of nice things for us."

Senior guards Dashon Enoch (16 points) and Isaiah Fuller (14 points) paced OPRF offensively. Fuller had two breakaway dunks in the first half that energized the crowd.

"I thought we could have played harder," Fuller said. "We should have won by more. But we hit a few free throws at the end and I thought it was good that we won."

After a first quarter that ended with the teams tied 13-13, Fuller's aforementioned two dunks sparked the Huskies a 30-22 lead at halftime. About halfway through the third quarter, LTHS went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 37. The Huskies immediately responded with five consecutive points to reclaim the advantage, and OPRF held a 46-42 lead at the end of the third quarter. 

In the fourth quarter, the Lions pulled even at 50-50.

OPRF senior Malachi Ross came off the bench, however, to give the Huskies a boost with inspired play at both ends of the court. A bucket inside by Ross with four minutes remaining gave OPRF the lead for good. Defensively, his stellar work against Shines and the other top shooters for LTHS made a huge difference as the Lions went scoreless.

When healthy, Ross is a starter.

"We were trying to get Malachi some rest since his knees have been banged up all year," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "He's not 100 percent and we're trying to get him there by January. The trainer said he's good to go if you need him. I gave him rest as long as I could, but he came into the game and gave us a spark."

While the Lions struggled down the stretch, OPRF (6-0, 1-0) made five free throws to pull away for its conference victory.

Nevertheless, Sloan praised the Lions' competitiveness against an excellent opponent.

"I'm really proud of the effort from the guys," he said. "Coming out of halftime down eight against a really good team, we stuck with it and we were able to tie the game. We were patient and poised and took advantage of our opportunities. In the last three minutes or so, we couldn't get a bucket and they made some free throws. (OPRF) made enough plays to win the game, but we pushed them close to the limit."

The Lions (2-5, 0-1) host a pair of big games this weekend, Friday, Dec. 15 against rival Hinsdale Central at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 16 against Lincoln-Way East at 5 p.m.

Over Christmas, LTHS will compete in the annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic hosted by York High School (Dec. 26-30).

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