Nik Polonowski

Senior Nik Polonowski and his Lyons Township boys basketball teammates gave West Suburban Conference Silver Division champion Hinsdale Central an even better battle Feb. 11.

Although they lost this meeting 57-55, the Lions (22-5, 7-4) rode the passion of their home crowd and nearly 4,000 fans to a possession-by-possession battle with the Red Devils (27-3, 10-1), who have won 19 straight and took the first meeting 49-41 on Jan. 20 in Hinsdale.

“We looked way more confident out there,” Polonowski said. “I think that was playing on home court and the preparation we went through the whole week.”

After the Red Devils’ Chase Collignon missed the second of two free throws with 6.3 seconds left, the Lions’ Brady Chambers made a quick half-court outlet pass to his cousin Connor Carroll, whose driving contested layup to force overtime just missed.

“That’s all we were hoping for. We didn’t want them to set up their defense if they missed,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. 

“That was a great high school game. It was two really good teams that played well in an electric environment. We’ve got to take care of business the next couple of weeks, but it would be pretty fun if we got another chance to play.”   

Polonowski had 19 points, including 13 points in the third quarter with two threes, followed by Jackson Niego (10 points, 5 rebounds), Chambers (10 points), Carter Reid (8 points) and Carroll (4 points).

The Red Devils and Lions are the No. 2 and 5 seeds, respectively, in the IHSA Class 4A Hinsdale Central Sectional and could meet in the sectional semifinals.

“Obviously that rivalry, it hurts to lose a game like that, but it does give us another wakeup. Going into the postseason, I think it’ll give us a nice energy booster,” Polonowski said. “Sometimes those losses help us learn a little better than the wins do. Losing helps us pinpoint what made us lose.” 

Niego hit a corner three off a Carroll inbounds pass with 4:21 left to give the Lions their last lead at 51-50. Chambers’ three had tied the game at 48.

They closed to 55-53 on a Polonowski free throw with 2:09 remaining but then missed two free throws and three threes before Chambers’ bank shot for the game’s last points with 17.2 seconds to go.

Hinsdale Central senior standout Ben Oosterbaan had 22 points, including a 3-pointer just before halftime and Michael Jordan-esque fade-away jumper to end the third quarter.

“In the three weeks since we played them, we feel like we are significantly better,” Sloan said. “That’s all we can do. We keep improving and take our chances with whoever we face. We got a great effort from guys up and down the roster.”

The Lions beat Oak Park and River Forest 72-57 on Feb. 7 behind Polonowski (19 points, 5 rebounds), Niego (16 points, 8 rebounds), Reid (14 points, 5 rebounds), Graham Smith (10 points, 7 rebounds) and Chambers (6 points).