Updated 1/17/12 12:45 p.m.
While Oak Park and Glenbard West are the early front-runners to win the coveted West Suburban (Silver) Conference boys basketball title, two-time defending champion Lyons Township and several other teams are in hot pursuit.
The Lions played their part in tightening the conference race considerably by dealing visiting Oak Park a 65-53 loss, its first setback in the Silver this season, on Friday night in La Grange. Lyons senior guard Kenny Smith repeatedly gashed the Huskies’ defense with an assortment of layups and mid-lane jumpers en route to a career-high 28 points. More importantly, Lyons (6-9, 2-2) showed a collective effort of unselfish basketball on its way to its fourth victory in a row after opening the season a disappointing 1-7.
“It’s tough [starting off 1-7] and not getting down on yourself or your teammates,” Smith said after the game, “but we kept practicing hard and focused on playing as a team. Oak Park is a good team and we knew they would make some runs, but we had to keep [Oak Park] on their heels, finish strong and make our free throws.”
Smith set the tone early by scoring nine points in the first quarter as LT seized a 23-12 advantage at the end of the period. The Lions extended their lead to 36-19 at halftime as Smith tallied 15 points and reserve Jarryd Heath contributed nine of his 12 points, all of which came beyond the three-point arc.
“We played very well and hit our shots,” said Heath about the win. “It was important for us to beat the top team right now in our conference. We’re playing at a high level. We’re very confident and feel like we can beat anyone.”
Defensively, LT limited the long, athletic Huskies by employing a 2-3 zone defense with occasional half-court and full-court pressure.
Trailing 40-24 at the 5:43 mark of the third quarter, the Huskies went on a 13-2 run over the next three minutes to close within 42-37. Senior forward Alex Nesnidal canned two three-pointers and senior forward Gabe Levin added a catch and pretty spin-o-rama layup in transition to close the Huskies’ surge. Oak Park would get no closer than six points the rest of the way as Smith essentially sealed the Huskies’ fate on a hard-driving layup plus one to make the score 57-47 with 3:53 left in the game. The quick guard poured in seven more points down the stretch.
“We had two of the best days of practice this week and yesterday was one of our worst,” Oak Park coach Matt Maloney said. “You’ll play how you practice.”
Tabbed by many as the preseason conference favorite, Oak Park (10-4, 4-1) is in the midst of a mini-slum, dropping three of its last four games. Granted, two of the losses occurred at the annually loaded Pontiac Holiday Tournament; however, the Huskies played far from their best basketball against LT.
Levin recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, highlighted by a spectacular coast-to-coast two-handed dunk and Nesnidal finished with 15 points. Junior point guard Jakari Cammon had 11 points, mostly on one-handed runners in the lane. Bradley recruit Ka’Darryl Bell had a tough night offensively, scoring only seven points.
Lyons visits Hinsdale Central on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and host Proviso West on Saturday (6 p.m.).