The result of the play would be the OPRF basketball team's second devastating loss of the night, Jason Simmons 8 foot jumper rimmed out, Robert Strzemp's put back was good but, came a tenth of a second too late, leaving the Huskies on the short end of a 75-73 score, against Evanston (3-0), in the championship game of the Evanston Basketball Tournament. Star guard Evan Hilton could only watch the final minutes of the game due to a leg injury he suffered in the third quarter. Hilton, who averaged 19.3 points per a game in the tournament, is expected to miss six weeks.
When Hilton left the game, early in the second half, Head Coach Al Allen feared his team would lose their composure against the intense full court pressure applied by Evanston. However, the Huskies (2-1) responded to the task at hand, led by a strong performance from Jason Simmons, (23 points) off the bench, the Huskies to rallied back from a ten point deficit to tie Evanston in the game's final minute. Aaron Hamilton's steal and lay up with 40 seconds left would give Evanston the lead for good. In spite of the loss, Allen was happy with the way his team responded in the face of adversity.
"I was very impressed that when their best player and leader went down they had a momentarily lapse of despair, but they went down and scored some points," Allen said.
OPRF began the tournament last Tuesday, against Providence St. Mel. The smaller Knights attempted to dictate the pace of the game by applying constant full court pressure. The Huskies weren't phased by the pressure, committing few turnovers in 67-29 route of the Knigts. Evan Hilton nearly out scored the opposition, tallying 23 points.
The Huskies second opponent, Forman, would once again try and dictate the pace of the game by applying full court pressure. Forman's press was somewhat effective and made it difficult for the Huskies to get the ball inside, where they had a considerable size advantage. OPRF went into the half leading by a score of 25-20. The second half saw the Huskies run away with the contest, the final score was 75-60. Hilton led all scorers with 27, point guard Gabe Simms added 12 points. Strzemp (24 points) and center Howard Bonne controlled the glass, the duo combined for 22 rebounds.
The upcoming weeks will be a tough stretch for the Huskies as they begin conference play without Hilton. Allen knows that he needs to find someone to step up in Hilton's absence. Perhaps Jason Simmons stellar championship game performance could be a sign of things to come. Allen feels that the absence of Hilton will make the team stronger come playoff time.
"It is going be a positive for us, we have to look at everything as a positive," Allen said. " Other guys can step up and when Evan gets back guys will be ready for the rest of our season."
The Huskies begin conference play this week, with a pair of home games against Argo and Lyons Township.