By Marty Farmer
The Oak Park-River Forest High School boys basketball team defeated visiting Schaumburg 52-33 on Saturday to salvage a split of their past two games. The night after a frustrating loss to Hinsdale Central in their West Suburban Conference Silver Division opener, the Huskies responded well against the Saxons with a solid performance, particularly in the first half.
"Our game plan every game is to impose our will on our opponent and establish the tempo of the game to our liking," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "Great teams learn from their mistakes, and we had a nice bounce back win against Schaumburg."
OPRF (7-1, 0-1 West Suburban Silver) led the Saxons 14-6 after one quarter and 34-14 at halftime as senior point guard Erick Locke set the tone with 13 points at the break. OPRF frontline players Javonni Harrell and Simmie Cobbs also provided some spectacular first-half highlights with a dunk each.
"Javonni really got on the glass," Maloney said. "He's so active in the paint and he's a long, bouncy player. He's still a work in progress but he has a very high ceiling."
Cobbs' jam was even more emphatic than Harrell's dunk, as the 6-foot-5 forward stole a Schaumburg pass and broke free for a one-handed throwdown.
"Last night was tough, losing to very good Hinsdale Central team," Locke said. "I could barely sleep after the game so I wanted to be more assertive in the next game. I think that helped calm the other guys down and we were able to stretch the game out. We took care of business tonight [against Schaumburg] and tightened some things up."
Employing a very deliberate style on offense, the Saxons actually outscored OPRF 7-3 during a lackluster third quarter.
The Huskies opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 spurt, however courtesy of a basket each from Jawaan Jackson and Breshawn Wilkerson and two free throws from Cobbs to regain the momentum and extend their lead to 43-21. In the closing minutes, reserves Dallis Flowers, Markus Allen, Ryston Watts and Matt Gibula all scored for the Huskies as 12 players overall notched points in the scorebook.
Locke netted a game-high 14 points, while Harrell (eight points, six rebounds), Connor Fuller (six points, six rebounds, two steals) and Cobbs (six points, seven rebounds) also played well for the victors.
Fuller, and fellow 6-0 sophomore guard Breshawn Wilkerson, also have been key contributors for the Huskies despite their lack of varsity experience. Fuller shined in his first varsity start against Schaumburg.
"The coaches have been telling me to just stay confident and learn from the veterans on our team," Fuller said. "As long as we stay together as a team and remain disciplined, we can have a great season. We listened to coach [Maloney] and played well tonight. We started great and we ended great."
Unfortunately, the closing moments against Hinsdale Central didn't go as smoothly. OPRF led late before the Red Devils' senior guard Chase Hamilton (14 points) knocked down a clutch three-pointer with 1:25 left in the game, paving the way to a 57-53 victory. OPRF held a 42-39 advantage after three quarters, but the Red Devils won the fourth quarter scoring battle (18-11) and ultimately the game.
Cobbs scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds and senior guard Jason Gant chipped in nine points and five rebounds. Saddled with foul trouble throughout the game, Locke finished with five points.
OPRF turn its attention next to cross-town rival Fenwick. The Huskies and host Friars square off Saturday (12/21) at 7 p.m. in a highly anticipated nonconference showdown.
Like OPRF, Fenwick (6-2) is off to a fast start this season, recently notching a pair of impressive wins over Brother Rice and Benet. Despite the absence of 6-foot-5 star forward Scott Lindsey (injury), the Friars are performing well under new head coach Rick Malnati. Although Lindsey's return date is unknown, the Friars hope to have the Northwestern commit back in action perhaps in January.
"We know how talented Fenwick is with players like Tom Planek, Dan Dwyer and Mike Smith," Maloney said. "They have had other kids step as well with Scott Lindsey out. We're looking forward to the challenge and it will be a good test for us."
"It's a great game for the students, alumni and community. People enjoy this matchup; it's a special rivalry."
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