The stifling defense of the Lyons Township boys basketball team was so good during a 63-46 win over host Brother Rice in the Class 4A regional final on Friday even the “Crusader Crazies” couldn’t storm the court.
The “Crazies” – the student section for Brother Rice – is known for flooding their home court after big postseason victories. It never happened against the savvy, senior-laden Lions (25-2), who held the Crusaders to 16-for-63 shooting (9-for-37 from behind the three-point line), and caused 20 turnovers.
“Brother Rice is definitely a tough place to win,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “The game had a great atmosphere. Great win for our guys. I think our defensive intensity and pressure on the ball made a big difference.”
Engaged in a defensive battle, LT and Brother Rice played to a 10-10 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Continuing to look inside the post, the Lions scored the first 11 points of the second quarter to build a 21-10 lead. Lyons also implemented a 1-3-1 zone defense against the Crusaders, who shot an abysmal 3-for-20 during the second quarter. Earlier this season, Lyons used the same defense effectively during an 86-62 win over the Crusaders at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament.
“The boys made an effort to pound the ball inside to [LT center] Nick (Burt),” Sloan said. “Nick finished well in the paint on a couple of plays and was fouled. Our inside game opened up perimeter shots for us.”
With Burt (20 points) doing damage inside against the Crusaders’ talented but young frontline, Eric Powers (20 points) and Nick Zeisloft contributed on the perimeter as each sharpshooter nailed a three-pointer to give LT a 29-18 advantage at the half.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Zeisloft said. “We took their best shot at their place. We knew it would be a tough game. Our defense really came through for us.”
With LT up 45-30 entering the fourth quarter, Brother Rice caught fire from beyond the arc, hitting four three-pointers during the period. Alex Majewski (19 points) hit a three-point shot to pull Rice within 49-41 with 5:41 left in the game. The Lions quelled the Crusaders’ spirited rally however with a game-ending 14-5 run. Lyons also made 10-of-13 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
The Lions take on Curie in the Argo Sectional semifinals tonight (Wednesday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.). The Condors (28-2) are led by UIC-bound Greg Travis, junior guards Paris Burns and Devin Foster along with 6-foot-8 Cliff Alexander, one of the top freshmen in the country.
Lyons, which hasn’t lost a game since Christmas en route to consecutive conference and regional championships, will rely on their experience, size, and versatility against the Condors.
“Curie is quick, athletic and tough,” Sloan said. “It will be quite a challenge.”