It was only a split for the Oak Park and River Forest girls' basketball team over the weekend, but in winning, and even in losing, the Huskies found signs of progress.
OPRF lost for the second time to Lyons Township on Friday, but instead of being blown out like the first time, the Huskies hung with the Lions into the fourth quarter of a 54-47 game. The Huskies followed that up with a defensive 29-23 win against 15th-ranked Hinsdale Central on Saturday.
"We played really good defense against Hinsdale Central," OPRF coach Adrian Newell said. "It was really the best defense I've seen us play. They had to hold the ball a long time and not a lot of shots went up. They also missed a lot of shots for a change."
Hinsdale Central looked like it would slowly pull away after emerging from the first quarter in front 9-5.
But the Huskies (14-6, 4-4) tied the game at 12 by halftime and were in front 22-14 to begin the fourth quarter. OPRF also survived an 8-0 fourth-quarter run by Hinsdale Central to hang on for the win.
"When we went into halftime tied and saw they had only scored 12 points, that was a real boost for us," Newell said. "I don't know if anyone has held that team to 12 points in a half before. But we kept the pressure on and the girls were really boosted by what we'd done on defense."
Last time the Huskies took on the Red Devils, they were blown out as Hinsdale connected on 19 free throws. This time, the Red Devils hit only 8-of-17 at the free-throw line.
Ashleen Bracey led the Huskies in scoring with 10 points and also hit a pair of turnaround jumpers in the fourth quarter that helped hold off the late Red Devil run. Amber Slaughter scored eight points and Brittney Marshall chipped in seven.
Though the Huskies lost for the second time to Lyons Township, how they lost and by how much was a different story.
The first time the two teams played, the Huskies were blown out by 24 points. Just like in the first game, OPRF faced a double-digit halftime deficit. Unlike the first game, when the Huskies would get no closer than 11 in the second half, OPRF mounted a 13-6 third-quarter run to begin the final frame trailing by only three points at 34-31.
"We played hard in the third quarter," Newell said. "We made a few threes and turned on the defense again. We also got the ball in the basket. But LT is like a machine. They're the best offensive team I've seen. Everyone knows where everyone is on the floor, and they have a lot of players that can hurt you."
Despite being forced out of a zone defense early by a pair of 3-pointers by LT's Lauren Kazmierczak, the Huskies still managed to limit the Lions season-leading scorer Mallory Heydorn to only eight points.
Marshall led OPRF with 17 points and Bracey also reached double-figures with 12 in a well-rounded effort by the Huskies.
"The girls feel like we've turned a corner," Newell said. "We're working on bringing down turnovers, and we haven't shot well at times this season, but we're working on finding better shots and we're finding out ways to make the ball go in the basket."
OPRF doesn't play again until traveling to Leyden on Friday, followed by a Saturday game at Proviso West.
Those games will be followed quickly by a makeup game on Monday against Willowbrook and another game on Tuesday against Morton. The latter two contests are part of the Fenton end-of-season tournament.