The Lyons Township boys basketball team has been so good over the past two seasons that it’s only lost five out of 57 games with two of those setbacks coming from eventual state champion Simeon. So how can the Lions – especially after losing such a stellar senior class – realistically maintain a similar level of success?
While that remains to be seen, LT head coach Tom Sloan knows his team is approaching the daunting challenge properly.
“We talked about it with our current seniors a few days after our season ended last year,” Sloan said. “The bar has been set high and we’re not going to lower it. It’s a high expectation to meet, but this is a good group of seniors with a strong class following it. I don’t know how it will shake out this season in terms of our record, but this is a good group of hard-working players that’s fun to coach.”
Last season, the Lions boasted a versatile starting lineup of players all 6-foot-4 or taller who could play multiple positions; however, the reconfigured LT lineup will offer a smaller, quicker starting five this year led by senior guards Kenny Smith (6-1) and Joe Carroll (6-foot).
“Kenny returns as the player with the most varsity game experience,” Sloan said. “He’s very talented on the offensive end. Joe is a lefty guard similar to Kenny in his quickness and athleticism.”
Six-foot-2 senior guard Matt Robare is the third weapon among what Sloan calls his probable top three scorers. Guard David Reed and 6-4 forward Chris Antalek are the other projected starters, although, 6-4 Jake Dilcher and 6-3 Chris O’Reilly will also see plenty of action along the frontline.
Jemari Burks and Zack Mahoney, both key players on the LT state quarterfinal football team, bring athleticism and toughness to the mix while Devonta Smith and Jarryd Heath round out what Sloan anticipates will be a 10-player rotation.
“We’re going to pressure teams defensively and play up-tempo basketball,” Sloan said. “We’re not the biggest team so hopefully our depth and quickness can negate the size advantage some other teams might have against us.”
The two-time defending West Suburban (Silver) Conference and regional champion Lions will be hard pressed to repeat those lofty achievements this season. Oak Park-River Forest is a slight preseason favorite to win conference with Glenbard West, York Hinsdale Central, LT and others in hot pursuit.
“Any team could win the league this year,” Sloan said. “I know one thing: there won’t be any easy nights in our conference.”