The Lyons Township and Riverside-Brookfield rivalry in boys high school basketball shifted to the big stage on Friday.
Playing in the Sixth Annual Chicago Elite Classic at the University of Ilinois at Chicago, the Lions escaped with a 56-55 victory.
LTHS used a full-court, 1-2-2 zone defense that caused plenty of problems for the Bulldogs at the UIC Pavilion. Add in plenty of offense, and it’s no surprise the Lions surged to a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Although RBHS senior guard Ryan Cicenas struggled early on offense, backcourt mate Zach Vaia kept the Bulldogs within striking distance.
LTHS maintained control in the second quarter via its effective defensive pressure, which generated an 8-0 run to build the lead to 25-10.
RBHS responded with an 11-7 run to make the score 32-21 at the half.
The Bulldogs built off their second-quarter surge in the third quarter as Cicenas and junior guard Patrick Hanley heated up from the perimeter with four 3-pointers, collectively.
Despite his slow start, Cicenas kept his confidence.
“I had to forget about those misses in the first half,” Cicenas said. “I know I’m a shooter so I kept shooting knowing it will go in eventually.
“As a team, we had great defense in the second half and we trusted each other. We’ve already played really tough teams so we’ll be ready heading into conference.”
LTHS junior guard Nolan Niego provided enough offense in the third quarter to help the Lions maintain a 44-37 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs’ AL Meindl scored a few timely buckets to pull RBHS within 47-45 with 4:23 left in regulation.
Although the Lions tried to run down the clock, RBHS junior Reggie Loury tied the game at 47-47 on a put back basket with 2:43 remaining.
In the closing minutes, the teams traded the lead multiple times with RBHS up 50-49 on a Vaia basket. LTHS senior Lazarius Williams gave the Lions a 51-50 edge on a tough two.
Trailing the Bulldogs 55-54 with :15 seconds left, LTHS junior guard Tyrese Shines scored the game-wining basket. Shines scored off an offensive rebound that he put back up for two.
“This was a huge confidence-booster,” Shines said. “We want to do what we can to win every game. Having won this close game will really help us going forward.”
Shines and Niego had 11 points and six rebounds each, while Williams chipped in nine points for the Lions.
Cicenas scored a game-high 15 points, supported by Vaia (12 points) and Loury (11 points).