Senior Jaquan Phipps and his Lyons Township High School boys basketball teammates remain in control of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division race.
Now the Lions need to get their game back on track.
LTHS suffered a tough 52-43 home loss to Oak Park and River Forest Friday in La Grange. The Lions still lead the conference race by one game because second-place rival Hinsdale Central also lost Friday at Proviso West.
“We couldn’t get in our groove, our rhythm. We weren’t knocking down shots. We weren’t playing too well defensively,” Phipps said.
“We weren’t ourselves [Friday] but we do want to win conference and it’s in our hands. We’ve just got to take care of business.”
LTHS (18-5, 7-2 West Suburban Silver) closed to 37-33 with 2:46 left but missed a driving shot on its next possession. The Huskies (11-9, 4-5) sank 11-for-12 free throws in the final 1:42 to finish 17-for-20 overall from the charity stripe.
The Lions led 7-2 after one quarter but trailed after the Huskies’ 20-point second quarter for a 22-17 halftime advantage. Dallis Flowers, the Huskies’ only senior starter, scored 11 points in the second quarter and finished with 24 and two of his team’s four three-pointers.
“Our league is good and if you have an off night, which we did [you often lose],” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “We’ve gotten away with it a couple of times. Oak Park was too good for us tonight to not play well and win. It’s just one of those things when you play in a tough league, like teams in the Big Ten [Conference]. Very rarely does a team go through undefeated or with one loss.”
The Lions’ Harrison Niego scored 14 points and had two three-pointers in the final 1:12. Connor Niego (12 points) and Phipps (8 points with 2 threes) had the team’s other three three-pointers.
This was the Lions’ second-lowest single-game point total this season and only fourth time with fewer than 50 points. Three have been losses.
“We did not shoot it well [33 percent from field]. A lot of that had to do with Oak Park’s defense, but we did not play well offensively,” Sloan said. “They did a good job. We tried different types of pressure and they handled it and made enough shots, big shots.”
LTHS won the teams’ first meeting 60-51 at Oak Park Dec. 19 after outscoring the Huskies 16-2 in the second quarter to lead 24-13 at halftime.
“Oak Park improved their pressure, help defense. They boxed out and they got rebounds and pushed the ball really well,” Phipps said. “They’re a good team. In this conference, everyone’s good so you’ve got to bring it every night.”
The Lions regained some momentum Saturday with a 66-57 Pack the Place home victory over Prospect.
LTHS hosts conference rival Hinsdale Central on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Lions lost at a packed Hinsdale Central 66-57 Jan. 19. The Red Devils, the two-time defending Silver champions, have lost three consecutive conference games since senior and top player Matt Rafferty broke his hand Jan. 23 at York.
“It will be a big game for our conference and for our school,” Phipps said about the Hinsdale Central matchup. “Bringing back the W will electrify this school, make everyone happy and proud. All of the community will come out. It’s our Black Out game [where everyone wears black] so it’ll be pretty fun.”