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It wasn't always pretty for the OPRF boys basketball team (see Exhibits A and B, 14-for-46 shooting for 30 percent, 17 turnovers), but the Huskies found a way to grind out a 49-43 win over Proviso West in West Suburban (Silver) Conference action on Friday.
Despite extended periods of patchy play, including a downright abysmal third quarter, OPRF (6-3, 2-0) saved its best for last by outscoring the Panthers 8-2 over the final two minutes of play to secure the victory.
"We came out slow but [then] started to get it together," OPRF senior guard Alex Gustafson said. "Defensively, we tried to slow [Proviso West] down with a good amount of zone defense and some different looks. Everybody stepped up; it's a big win for us."
Tied at 41-41 late in the fourth, junior guard Erick Locke (23 points, 5 rebounds) canned a three-pointer to give the Huskies the lead for good at 44-41. In the final minute, the Huskies converted 5 of 6 free throws while holding Proviso West scoreless.
Locke, who has returned to OPRF after a year at Brooks in Chicago, has adjusted seamlessly back into the fold.
"Coming back to OPRF has been great," said Locke, who attended OPRF his freshman year. "The guys and coaches have accepted me and helped me get acclimated to the program. It's been a great learning process."
While Locke is a true scoring guard, points were hard to come by for both teams at different junctures of the game. Proviso West jumped out to a 6-0 lead, before the Huskies responded with a strong run fueled by nine points from Locke and six points from Alex Gustafson to take a 24-19 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, the Huskies hit a major scoring snag with only one three-pointer — courtesy of Darrius Williams — over the first six minutes of the period. Paced by sharpshooting senior guard Lawrence Moore (18 points), Proviso West held a 33-32 lead after three quarters.
Locke's 11 points in the fourth quarter coupled with some clutch free throw shooting from Tacourrus Mattox (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Jakari Cammon (8 points, 4 assists) carried the Huskies to victory. OPRF also got it done at the other end of the floor in the closing minutes.
"We tightened up our defense and got out in transition a bit more," Locke said. "We also rebounded the ball better down the stretch."
The Panthers didn't help their cause, missing 6 of 10 free throw attempts over the final 3:40 of the game.
OPRF welcomes in Lyons Township next Friday (6 p.m.) in another key conference matchup. Last year, the teams split a pair of league games with each squad protecting its home court.
"It's always a great game when we play LT," Gustafson said. "We need a good week of practice to get ready for them and Downers Grove North as well."
Regardless of upcoming opponents, OPRF coach Matt Maloney likes the direction the Huskies are headed after a few close losses so far this season.
"We were literally one possession away in each of our losses from getting wins," Maloney said. "Those losses probably are a blessing in disguise because the adversity really brought our team together especially with some guys taking on new roles this season."