The Lyons Township High School and Oak Park and River Forest High School girls basketball teams finished as co-champions of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division this season.
The Lions defeated OPRF 44-30 on Feb. 5 to secure their share of the league title. In their first meeting, the Huskies edged LTHS 43-39 on Jan. 16 in Oak Park.
The Lions claimed their second straight conference title under the leadership of coach Paul Krick, while the Huskies earned their first league championship since also sharing a title in 2011.
“I knew if the girls bough into the concept of team basketball, we would ourselves in a position to repeat [as conference champions],” Krick said. “It’s a credit to our girls that they have overcome adversity. We had a lot of injuries but our bench players stepped up and filled in really well.”
Both teams have certainly endured their share of adversity en route to the top rung of the conference ladder.
Although LTHS (18-5, 9-3) was more consistent than the Huskies during the regular season, key injuries to Emily Pender, Frannie Corrigan and Kaelan Lee affected the team’s depth and continuity. With the playoffs approaching, the team is close to full strength.
Prior to the season, OPRF (13-13, 9-3) lost three key players who decided not to rejoin the team and then sputtered to an 0-5 start.
“Despite losing the rematch game against Lyons, we are still co-champions,” OPRF senior Crystal Corr said. “That is a huge accomplishment for us because we have worked so hard to improve as a team. The biggest difference in how are playing now compared to the beginning of the season is how we have bonded.”
Unlike the teams’ first meeting when the short-handed Lions struggled to overcome 20 turnovers, poor shooting and Corrigan and Lee out the lineup, the rematch proved problematic for OPRF.
The Huskies shot 9-for-33 from the field and made of 7 of 16 free throws. Madison Siler led the team in scoring with 11 points, with contributions from Maeve Nelson (8 rebounds, 3 steals) and Molly Cullinane (6 points).
OPRF led 15-8 with 6:55 left in the second quarter but only made three field goals the rest of the game.
“We got down six or seven points through the first quarter but then settled down,” Krick said. “We made some adjustments, dug in defensively and locked in on them. Their offense really struggled and I think we really frustrated them.”
Along with a stout effort defensively, the Lions benefitted from Sidney Bugaieski’s game-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Nina Scaramella and Emily Pender chipped in seven points apiece.
“I thought we moved the ball really well which allowed us to take the best shots available,” Scaramella said. “I also think we rebounded really well which kept them from getting any second chance scoring opportunities.”
The Lions host Proviso East on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the first-place crossover game of the West Suburban Conference and then Trinity on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m.
“I don’t think people know what to expect from us, but we have saved our best for last,” Pender said. “We are very motivated to prove to everyone how strong we are together.”
In the Class 4A state playoffs, LTHS is the No. 6 seed in its own sectional.