The Lions (7-5, 1-3) got past the Red Devils (5-8, 1-2) 52-44 on Jan. 10 at Hinsdale Central to notch their first victory in the West Suburban Silver conference.
After ending the third quarter down 38-35, Lions senior forward Michael Shay opened an 8-0 run in the fourth with a basket from the right side on a pass from senior guard Grant Niego. Niego followed Shay with a basket to give the Lions a 39-38 lead with 6:19 to play in the game. The run was capped off with a steal and layup on the right by Niego with 3:57 to go. The Lions would keep their lead for the rest of the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to make plays,” said Niego. “If I wasn’t making plays, if there were two or three guys on me, I was just trying to hit an open person and give it to a teammate to make a great shot.”
Niego led the way for the Lions with 22 points (10 of which came in the fourth quarter). Senior guard Michael Niedermeyer notched 10 points, while Shay and senior forward Ben Engels combined for 13 points.
“We kept it close in the first half,” said Lions head coach Tom Sloan. “In the first half, most of our guys were feeling out how to play in an environment like this. Keeping it close allowed us to play really hard in the second half and take command in the fourth quarter.”
Engels put up a basket from the left side and was fouled with just under a minute to play in the game and gave the Lions even more of a cushion by making his free-throw to get the Lions up 48-42. He would then make his next two free-throws after getting fouled with just under 30 seconds left, and Niego would seal the victory with two free-throws of his own with 20 seconds left.
“When we had free-throw opportunities late, we made most of them,” Sloan said. “Making free throws, making layups, and making open shots are key parts of the game. When we had layup opportunities, we made them too, and that’s what decides close games.”
The rivalry game did not disappoint the fans that packed the gym, and the players took it all in during the important West Suburban Silver matchup.
“Last year we had a big game (at Hinsdale), but I wasn’t playing much,” Engels said. “This year was a lot different. It was fun to experience.”
The Lions know that they can build off their win and take their momentum into some more challenging conference games as well.
“We’re just going to try to take this and keep going,” Niego said. “It’s always a great win when we can steal one at (Hinsdale’s) place. We’re just trying to string these West Suburban conference wins together. Every team is tough.”
“It’s huge,” Engels said. “We’re focused on the future and our next game.”
The Lions were also victorious in their game against Proviso West at home Saturday, by a score of 62-55.