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The OPRF boys basketball team takes pride in playing hard until the final buzzer, and Friday night was no exception despite suffering their first conference loss of the season.
The Huskies (13-5, 5-1) fell to their West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival York 63-52 on their homecourt in Oak Park, putting each team at 5-1 in conference play. The Dukes had a 12-point lead to begin the fourth quarter, but the Huskies cut it just four points with four minutes to play as senior guard Alex Gustafson drove to the basket and put in a layup off a steal. Gustafson opened the final frame with back-to-back three-pointers from the left side to help get the Huskies' offense going.
"I've been here for 18 years, and we've always prided ourselves on fighting until the end," said OPRF head coach Matt Maloney, also a former player for OPRF. "We've had a few teams that didn't do that in the past, but this is not one of those teams. As disappointed as we are, we showed that if we come to play for four quarters, we can beat a lot of teams. I'm impressed that we played until the final buzzer and really had a chance to get back into it."
Gustafson and junior guard Erick Locke each had a team-high 15 points for the Huskies, while senior guard Jakari Cammon added 12 and senior forward/center Tacourrus Mattox notched four.
The Huskies' fourth quarter run was halted by a three-pointer by York senior guard David Cohn followed by a basket by junior guard Stanley Roberts to put the Dukes up by 10 with under three minutes to play. Cohn finished with a game-high 28 points.
OPRF was without senior forward/center Thomas Ross in their lineup. Ross was out with an injury suffered in last Friday's game at Glenbard West.
"(Ross' presence) was definitely needed," said Huskies senior center Virgil Allen. "I guess it was (bad timing), but I wasn't ready today. That's why we lost."
The Huskies were outscored 18-8 in the third, thanks in part to a 10-3 run by the Dukes which was broken up by a three-pointer from the right side from Gustafson.
"We should have gone to the basket more (in the third quarter)," Allen said. "We weren't ready for that zone. It's alright though, that's what practice is for. So we're going to work on it."
OPRF is still in good position as they look to repeat as conference champions. The squad has won 10 of their last 12 games. Maloney knew this York team would have extra incentive to beat his Huskies after missing out on the conference title last season at the hands of OPRF.
"We beat York at their place last year for our conference championship, so we knew they would have a chip on their shoulder," he said. "We give them credit, they played well. Their big men played well and their zone gave us problems. You have to credit them for what they did to take us out of what we wanted to do tonight."
OPRF travels to Morton on Tuesday (7:30 p.m.) for a conference crossover game before hosting Silver Division opponent Hinsdale Central on Saturday (6 p.m.).