With a pair of holiday tournament titles, a conference championship, and a recently added Marist Regional crown in tow, Lyons Township’s resume speaks for itself. No need for Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, the Lions are the undisputed top seed in their Class 4A sectional.
So, how will the unflappable Lions approach the next step in their journey – hosting a sectional against powerhouse programs Simeon, Mt. Carmel and Crane before a packed house?
“We’re just going to take it one possession at a time,” LT guard Spencer Mahoney said. “Each day of practice we are working as hard as we can. We just want to continue getting better.”
Lyons (26-1) ensured a return to Vaughn Gym by picking up two regional victories over Julian and Marist last week. The Lions downed Julian 75-73 on Friday during a title game that saw several momentum swings.
The Lions led by 12 points with less than three minutes remaining, but Julian (16-10) went on a 15-5 run to close the game. Lyons struggled down the stretch committing multiple turnovers and shooting 11-of-26 from the free-throw line for the game.
“We knew about Walter Lemon, and Julian also has a big guy [6-8 junior Jamari Traylor] who can dominate down low,” Lyons swingman Austin Lusson said. “For them to be a nine seed in our sectional, wow they are a good team. We’re happy to come away with the win.”
In the first quarter, LT jumped out to a 15-7 lead only to watch the Jaguars respond with a 7-0 spurt. Pounding the ball inside to Dan Lalonde, the Lions got Traylor into first half foul trouble, which was part of LT’s game plan. The Jaguars still managed a 23-18 lead without Traylor, but LT responded with an 11-1 run.
Point guard Jimmy Stamas nailed a pair of three-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to give the Lions a double-digit advantage.
“We were able to play better defensively than we did toward the end of the season,” Mahoney said. “Once we were able to push the ball, that opened the game up. Nick Zeisloft and Jimmy Stamas hit some big threes and Dan [Lalonde] did all the dirty work around the basket, scoring and rebounding.”
Lalonde led the Lions with 23 points and eight rebounds and Zeisloft added 12 points, including four three-pointers. Stamas netted 10 of his 15 points in the final quarter. Phillip Greene scored 28 points and Lemon contributed 23 points for Julian.
Lyons was set to take on Simeon last night (after deadline), while Mt. Carmel – led by Illinois-bound guard Tracy Abrams – meets Bogan tonight in the other semifinal. The winners advance to the sectional championship on Friday (7:30 p.m.).
“One of our main motivations to win the Marist Regional was to come back home,” Lusson said. “It’s going to be a ton of fun. Hopefully our crowd will be even bigger than our ‘Pack the Place’ and ‘Blackout’ games during the season.”