After splitting two tough conference games on the road last weekend the OPRF boys basketball team ended the week in the same place as they began, tied for first in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference.
On Friday night the Huskies defeated Hinsdale Central 70-60 behind a career high 30 points from 6-foot 2-inch junior forward Lamont Sanders. But on Saturday afternoon Sanders was held to 12 points and the Huskies fell to Proviso West 64-56.
At the midpoint of the conference season OPRF (11-5, 4-2) is tied for the conference lead with Proviso West and York. Glenbard West, which upset York Saturday night, is a game back with a 3-3 conference record while Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township and Downers Grove North are two games behind in a conference that is as balanced as it has ever been.
Saturday's game started well for the Huskies as they ran off eight straight points after Christian Harris scored the game's opening basket for Proviso West (15-6, 4-2). The run culminated when sophomore guard Iman Shumpert hit a three-pointer off a pass from Sanders.
The Huskies led 16-12 after the first quarter but then went stone cold in the second quarter, hitting only 1 of 8 shots from the field and scoring only four points to go into the locker room at halftime trailing 23-20.
Proviso West attacked the glass aggressively in the third quarter and opened the period with a 10-2 run to grab an 11-point lead. The Huskies offensive woes continued as they did not score a basket until sophomore Adam Taylor scored with 3:45 left in the third quarter. The Huskies went 7 minutes, 35 seconds without a field goal and scored only two points on two free throws in that span.
"We know we need some scoring punch from somewhere," said OPRF coach Al Allen. "The only reason we won (against Hinsdale Central) was that one kid scored 30 points. That's not going to happen every night."
OPRF battled back and finished the third quarter with an 8-0 run when Taylor made a steal and converted a layup to bring the Huskies to within four, 39-35.
"Taylor's coming along," said Allen. "Now you can see why he is on the varsity."
With his team leading 47-41 with just under six minutes left in the game, Panthers coach Tommie Miller decided to spread the floor to force the Huskies out of their 1-3-1 zone defense.
"Pulling the ball out and making us chase was brilliant," said Allen. "We could not guard them one-on-one. He turned it into a one-on-one basketball game which we could not win."
The Huskies were forced to foul. Proviso West converted only 15 of 31 free throws in the fourth quarter to give the Huskies a chance, but turnovers at crucial times stymied OPRF.
The closest the Huskies could get was five when a three-pointer by Jason Simmons (9 points) cut the deficit to 59-54 with 40 seconds remaining. But after Proviso West's Philip White hit one of the two free throws for a six-point lead Sanders threw the ball away on the Huskies' next possession and.
Proviso West scored 15 of their last 17 points of the game from the free-throw line.
Phil Gary led the Huskies with 14 points, while Sanders added 12. Senior center Jason Pontone had a strong game, pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking three shots while scoring five points before fouling out in the final minute.
Taurese Stinnett led Proviso West with 13 points.
Friday night OPRF raced out to a 24-8 second quarter lead at Hinsdale Central as Sanders used his quickness to blow by Red Devil defenders all night.
But Hinsdale Central (11-7, 2-4) pulled to within one when Chris Chana hit a three-pointer with 4:35 left in the game. The Huskies responded with a 6-0 run to put the game away.
Gary scored all 10 of his points in the second half to complement Sanders' game high 30. Sanders scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter.
"Being a man down, I'm pleased with both games," Allen said, referring to the loss of Daniel Barnes, who broke his hand two weeks ago. "We played games like they were playoff games. We played very hard. The kids were active, the kids were listening, the kids are getting better."
Heading into the second half of conference play the Huskies control their destiny.
"It's real simple," said Allen. "We have to win out to stay on top."