Senior guard Tavari Johnson made one lasting impression for Lyons Township High School boys basketball fans on March 4.
Whatever the defense, Johnson nailed all five of his three-point shots at the start of the third quarter as the Lions rallied against top-seeded Whitney Young in the IHSA Class 4A Proviso West Sectional final.
“I was just trying to get the ball to Tavari. I’ve never seen anything like that,” LTHS guard Aidan Sullivan said. “It felt like every time we came down the court, you might as well put three points up on the board because it was going in.”
The Lions closed to within three points, but they couldn’t sustain the momentum and lost 67-54.
Johnson, an Akron recruit, had 23 points and his five threes, followed by junior Nik Polonowski (7 points) and senior Will Carroll (5 points, 8 rebounds). Sullivan (6 rebounds), senior Billy Bach and junior Graham Smith (6 rebounds) each had four points.
“We’re glad that we made it this far,” Johnson said. “It’s something I’ll never forget, how good this team was.”
The third-seeded Lions (26-6) were 23-for-58 shooting (40 percent) with eight threes and no free throws on the Dolphins’ six total fouls.
Whitney Young had four players reach double figures, led by 6-foot-8 University of Miami recruit A.J. Casey (18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks) and 6-8 Northern Illinois recruit Xavier Amos (16 points).
LTHS had hoped for their first sectional title and downstate berth since 2001. Whitney Young (25-9) earned that berth March 7 by beating Kenwood 75-62.
“We were going to have to shoot it really well but we missed some good looks at the basket that would have helped, and Whitney Young’s really good and they made a lot of shots,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said.
Johnson led the way for the Lions with his shooting and passing after LTHS trailed 32-20 at halftime.
With Johnson’s threes, a Bach basket and Polonowski three, the Lions made seven consecutive shots to close to 43-40. But LTHS then endured a 1-for-14 spell with nine missed threes, and Young opened a 59-42 margin with 4:26 remaining.
Clutch plays also carried the Lions to their 44-41 overtime IHSA sectional semifinal victory March 2 over No. 2 seed Curie (26-7).
Carroll hit the game-winning three with 14 seconds left in overtime after Johnson’s free throws with 1:20 left tied the game 41-41.
“It was awesome, probably the best basketball moment of my life, a lot of fun,” Carroll said afterwards. “I saw Nik [Polonowski] driving. I just slid over, I was in open space and he found me. We shoot a bunch (of threes) in practice every day so super comfortable. Usually, I’m an inside guy.”
Carroll (team-high 12 points) scored after the Condors stole the ball with 24 seconds but in attacking had the ball stolen back by Sullivan with 21 seconds.