The Lyons Township boys basketball team does not claim a can’t-miss Division I prospect/star like Waukegan’s Jereme Richmond or De La Salle’s Mike Shaw. And with all due respect to the Lions’ undefeated state championship teams (1953, 1970) and two-decade legacy of coach Ron Nikcevich, Lyons doesn’t carry the modern day cachet of powerhouse programs like Whitney Young or Simeon.

What the Lions do have is an 18-0 record, and they’re the lone unbeaten boys team still standing in and around Chicago. As far as the cachet-factor, the red-hot Lions are working on it.

So, how has Lyons done it? How has a relative unknown already captured a pair of tournament championships, a victory at the United Center, high rankings from both Chicago daily newspapers, and surfaced as the team to beat in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference (7-0)?

The reason for LT’s success can be directly attributable to a group of unselfish players committed to second-year head coach Tom Sloan’s unshakable team concept.

“Being 18-0 is an awesome feeling,” said LT senior guard Austin Lusson. “I don’t think being undefeated is something we necessarily thought we could do at this point in the season, but we have a great group of guys that enjoy playing together.”

For all their substance, make no mistake, the boys in blue and gold provide some splash as well. On occasion, the Flyin’ Lions are known to throw down a few dunks. During their recent 57-52 victory over conference rival Oak Park, LT center Dan Lalonde ended the fiercely contested battle with a two-handed jam at the buzzer. Celebrating their Blackout Night, a sea of LT fans stormed the Vaughn Gym court (an estimated 4,000 people attended the game).

“That was something I’ll never forget,” said Lalonde. “It was great to see everyone I know, all my friends, people I’ve never seen before – just a huge crowd.”

After its 72-66 win over Downers South at the United Center this season, LT center Justin Phipps engaged in a highly entertaining jam session against Bulls rookie forward James Johnson.

“Justin was talking back and forth with James when the Bulls were shooting around,” Lusson recalled. “James called him out onto the court and they had a dunk contest. Justin was doing okay until he tried to do a fancy windmill dunk and the rim rejected him.”

Such memorable, teammate-teasing anecdotes are common for the chemistry-fueled Lions, who picked up two more wins over the weekend against Proviso West and Waubonsie Valley.

Lyons has plenty of size with highly skilled players in the 6-foot-6 Nick Burt, the 6-4 Lalonde (13.6 points, 9.8 rebounds per game) and the 6-5 Phipps (9.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg). Senior guards Jimmy Stamas and Lusson anchor the backcourt, which has received a boost from super-subs Spencer Mahoney and defensive ballhawk Jordan Hester. Junior sharpshooter Nick Zeisloft (11.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg.) is another scoring threat in the Lions’ multi-dimensional attack. Junior Eric Powers is another valuable reserve for LT.

“We’re a very balanced team,” Lalonde said. “We all can shoot, dribble and rebound. And with our team chemistry, it’s like we know where everybody is going to be on the court.”

Looking ahead, LT has a challenging schedule the rest of the regular season, notably with showdowns against Proviso East and a re-match against Oak Park. The Lions will also host a loaded sectional, featuring Mt. Carmel, Simeon, Bogan, Vocational, Brother Rice and several other dangerous floaters.

“Every game is going to be a dogfight,” Sloan said of the upcoming playoffs. “Just winning a regional championship will be a major accomplishment for the four teams who advance.”