Harrison Niego (now playing basketball at Indiana University) was unquestionably the Lyons Township High School basketball team’s top player and leader last season.
This year, it’s his younger brother Connor’s turn.
Connor Niego scored 23 points and hauled down 11 rebounds to power the Lions past Sandburg 48-43 on Saturday.
“My teammates did a great job of getting the ball moving,” he said. “It’s nice when you can knock some shots down early so you can do other things as well. It was really a great team win.”
LTHS held a comfortable lead throughout the first half, but the Eagles rallied with an 11-0 run to quickly whittle a 16-point deficit to five in the third quarter.
Key baskets by Noah Niego (4 points, 7 rebounds) and Montel Blackwell (7 points) coupled with free throws in the closing minutes by Connor Niego and standout freshmen Nolan Niego and Tyrese Shines held off Sandburg.
“(LTHS coach Tom Sloan) always talks about mental toughness towards the end of the game,” Connor Niego said. “Sometimes those last two minutes can feel like 20 minutes. It’s always great to be strong with the ball and avoid turnovers in order to finish the game strong.”
The Lions continued their impressive play this season with a 58-39 win against St. Joseph in Saturday’s opener of the co-ed hoops twin bill. Sophomore Emma Fink had a huge game with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Junior Grace Thomas contributed nine points and senior center Gabriela Vidakovich went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“We played really well,” Fink said. “We knew (St. Joseph) was a good team, but everyone on our team played really well. We communicated well so it was a really good game for us.
“We’ve been working on our plays a lot and we were really able to execute them against St. Joe’s. We really played together as a team while also doing well individually.”
The Lions were able to control the tempo against the speedy Chargers which was a key factor in securing the non-conference win.
“St. Joseph likes to play at a high pace so we slowed things down and made them grind it out,” LTHS coach Paul Krick said. “It was a great team effort on our behalf. We had nice balance with our scoring and defense.”
With a win earlier this season against Glenbard West, LTHS is off to a promising start in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. The Lions take on Proviso West and York in two more conference matchups this week.
“I hope that win (against St. Joseph) will get us ready for the next couple of games,” Fink said. “I think we can build off it and do well in the upcoming games.”