Tavari Johnson, a senior guard on the Lyons Township High School senior boys basketball team, had a breakthrough 2021 varsity debut season en route to signing with the University of Akron.
Senior Billy Bach was among many juniors who contributed as role players.
“I didn’t get that much playing time, but we worked hard over the summer as a group with the senior class and the juniors,” Bach said. “We worked hard together. We built our chemistry and it’s paying off right now.”
With Johnson and the seniors fueling a talented and balanced attack, the Lions (23-5) are the No. 3 seed in the Proviso West Sectional.
Bach, who will play at NCAA Division III DePauw, seniors Will Carroll and Aidan Sullivan and junior Nik Polonowski usually start with Johnson. Strong off the bench are juniors Jackson Niego and Graham Smith as well as seniors Elliot Russell and Cullen McManaman and juniors Carter Reid and Connor Carroll, Will’s brother.
“From the first practice, I could tell with the team, as much energy we have in practice … we knew we were going to be good that way,” Bach said.
The Lions finished second in the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division to state power Glenbard West and have achieved their third straight 20-win full-schedule season. Johnson, Bach and Polonowski have twice shared all-tournament honors.
“It’s not a surprise they’re a competitive group. They’re skilled. They’re tough,” LT coach Tom Sloan said.
Johnson has been a great starting point. He’s averaging a team-best 16.2 points with at least 20 points four of the past five games.
“It helps my confidence when I have my team and my coach believe in me that I can score at a high level,” Johnson said. “Since we were freshmen, we always talked about how well we were going to be playing as seniors. It’s been really fun.”
Johnson also averages nearly two steals and is a great passer as evidenced by 4.4 assists per game.
“[Tavari] just makes everybody better,” Will Carroll said. “If you’re open, he’s going to get it to you. If he needs to make the play, he’ll make the play.”
Polonowski (11.6 ppg) and Bach (7.8 ppg) are the top two three-point threats. Sullivan averages 6.5 points and Smith, Niego and Will Carroll between 4.5 and 5.6 points. Smith (4.7) and Sullivan (4.2) lead in rebounding averages, but Will Carroll, Bach and Polonowski also are between 3.7 and 3.1.
LTHS’ last sectional champion was the 2001 team that placed fourth in the state in Class AA. The Carrolls’ father, Dennis, started for the Lions’ 1994 third-place Class AA team and played basketball and tennis at Notre Dame.
“We’ve really come together as a group,” Will Carroll said. “The chemistry we have is really good. We all play hard and have each other’s backs.”