The Oak Park boys basketball team knew not to let its guard down against West Suburban (Silver Division) Conference rival Lyons Township in the Class 4A LT Regional semifinal on Tuesday night. The Huskies held up against a strong second-half surge by the Lions, coming away with a 60-51 victory and advancing to the regional title game against Morton on Friday (7:30 p.m.).
Oak Park (19-6) went into the game with a 1-1 regular season record against Lyons, the loss being the Huskies’ first in conference play. This game began with Oak Park jumping out to a 20-8 lead in the opening quarter thanks to long-range shooter Alex Nesnidal. The senior forward hit three of his four three-pointers on the night in the first period.
Oak Park starting point guard Ka’Darryl Bell was hit with his second foul late in the first quarter and had to sit. But the Huskies rode a nine-point lead into the break.
“Teams have been keying-in on Ka’Darryl and he has been doing a nice job of getting others shots, especially Alex Nesnidal,” said Oak Park coach Matt Maloney.
The Lions roared back in the third, briefly cutting the deficit to one before Jakari Cammon and Gabe Levin took control and helped the Huskies to a seven-point lead at the end of the quarter.
With six minutes left in the game, the Lions had a similar resurgence squelched. A jump-shot by Chris O’Reilly put the Lions within 48-46, but the Huskies closed out the win on a 12-2 run.
“They always play different at home and seem to shoot with much more confidence,” said Maloney of his Silver Division rival. “[Tonight] was no different. They never panicked and started getting hot from behind the arc, but Alex Nesnidal, Alex Gustafson and Jakari Cammon had a refuse-to-lose attitude.”
Levin led the Huskies with 16 points to go along with eight rebounds. The senior connected on 6-of-11 field goals. Nesnidal finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Gustafson added 12 points, while Cammon pitched in 11 for an impressive all-around night. The junior guard also had four rebounds, five assists and three steals.
O’Reilly led LT with 14 points, while Matt Robare added 12.
Oak Park will take on 10th-seeded Morton in the regional championship on Friday (7:30 p.m.). The Mustangs (13-12) crushed Leyden 69-44 in the other semifinal of the Lyons Regional on Tuesday night. Senior Rocco Belcaster scored a game-high 26 points, 20 of which came in the first half.
A victory over the Mustangs will put the Huskies in the Schaumburg Sectional semifinal where they are likely to take on the host on March 7. Schaumburg downed Proviso West 72-57 behind Christian Spandiary’s 40 points in the Glenbard West Regional semifinal on Tuesday night.