By Marty Farmer
Before Saturday's game against Hinsdale South, the undefeated Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team hadn't really been pushed this season. The Huskies have played some tough opponents like Riverside-Brookfield, Brother Rice and Kenwood, but the visiting Hornets represented the first squad to truly push the Huskies to the brink of defeat.
Ultimately, OPRF responded well to its first encounter with adversity with a gritty 53-43 overtime victory against Hinsdale South at the field house. Senior forward Simmie Cobbs served as the hero, scoring 10 points in overtime to trigger the Huskies' win. The 6-4 swingman finished with a career-high 28 points on 8 of 17 shooting and 11 rebounds. He was active defensively as well, with three steals, 11 deflections and a blocked shot.
"Simmie has such a high motor and is so competitive," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "He put us on his back and carried us to victory. He made play after play in the overtime session to clinch the victory. Because Simmie is such a versatile athlete, he's a tough cover for the opposition."
The Huskies' outstanding backcourt of Erick Locke (13 points, five assists) and Jason Gant (eight points, three assists) also contributed for OPRF, which outscored Hinsdale South 16-6 in overtime. Elliot Greffin was the only other Huskie to score, finishing with four points.
Both teams struggled offensively, facing each other's zone defensive schemes.
"Hinsdale South is a tough squad," Maloney added. "Their multiple zone packages gave us issues. That being said, I am extremely proud of our guys for gutting one out in OT. We imposed our will in the final period."
Marcell Phillips scored a team-high 24 points and Larry Motuzis tallied 10 points for the Hornets (4-3)
The Huskies had a much easier go of things against Walther on Tuesday (Dec. 3), cruising to a 79-35 win. Five players scored in double figures led by Cobbs and Connor Fuller who netted 13 points apiece. Malik Garrett scored 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from behind the arc, while Gant and Javonni Harrell each chipped in 10 points. OPRF seized a 19-7 lead after one quarter and coasted the rest of the way.
The Huskies' 40-point win over Walther reflected the effectiveness of their up-tempo style of play when it's in full gear.
"I thought with the exception of Saturday [against Hinsdale South], we have dictated tempo and forced teams to play our style," Maloney said. "We have several weapons and we have had different guys step up each night to contribute to the victories. We are still laying our foundation with so many new faces. We should have a different look and feel come January."
OPRF hosts a pair of games this weekend against Hinsdale Central (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) and Schaumburg (Saturday, 6 p.m.).
"The Hinsdale Central game is huge in terms of conference and preparing for Pontiac [tournament]," Maloney said. "They are big, skilled, and run great sets on the offensive end. After tangling with them, we square off against gritty and physical Schaumburg, which is a must win for us since they are in the same sectional."
Looking ahead, the Huskies will visit cross-town rival Fenwick on Saturday, Dec. 21 (7 p.m.) in a highly anticipated nonconference meeting. The Friars are off to a 3-2 start under new head coach Rick Malnati.
The Huskies were also informed on Dec. 8 that they are the No. 3 seed in the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Public League powerhouses Curie, with Kansas-bound Cliff Alexander, and Simeon, featuring DJ Williams, are slotted No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at Pontiac. West Aurora received the #4 seed.
"This is quite an achievement since this is the top tournament in the state of Illinois," said Maloney.