It was distribution that led the OPRF boys' basketball team to a 62-53 win over Downers Grove North at the fieldhouse in Oak Park on Friday night. The Huskies, who usually rely on the offensive production of one player, used a well-balanced attack to defeat their West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe and wipe from their minds a devastating 57-28 loss to West Aurora on Feb. 8.
Three OPRF players posted double figures in the win. Guards Gabe Sims and Evan Hilton both had a game-high 15 points apiece, while forward Robert Strzemp backed them up with 13.
The Huskies, who were without center Howard Boone due to a lingering knee injury and a missed team meeting, also had significant contributions off the bench. Reserve guard Jamal Johnson had six points, and forced several Downers North turnovers which led directly to points, and guard Dwight James had seven points.
"Jamal (Johnson) wasn't supposed to play that much tonight, but he really contributed off the bench with some tough buckets, and steals," said OPRF head coach Al Allen.
The Huskies jumped out early and never looked back. OPRF pressured the Downers North ball handlers from the start with a full court press, which forced the Trojans into making costly turnovers. Johnson was the instigator of many of these possession changes, tallying three steals in the first quarter.
The Trojans tried to keep the Huskies off balance with a seldom seen four-guard attack, but went 0 for 6 from 3-point range in the opening quarter.
OPRF was able to make a slight run near the end of the quarter as Strzemp nailed a 3-pointer, followed with another three by James on the ensuing possession, and the Huskies took a 14-9 lead at the end of one.
Both teams shot better in the second quarter, and OPRF outscored the Trojans 15-11. The Huskies struggled on the glass, but the Trojans were unable to capitalize.
Sims rebounded a missed OPRF free throw and drove strong to the hoop for a layup as the buzzer sounded to give OPRF a comfortable 29-20 lead at halftime.
Sims' feats didn't stop at the half. The senior nailed a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to kick off the second half.
Downers North seemed caught off guard at the start but finally began to shoot better near the end of the third quarter. Guard Garrett Edwards had five of his nine points in the closing minutes of the period, and the Trojans were on the verge of creeping back into the game. The comeback attempt was largely due to the solid production of forwards Chris Bolt and Brendan Briscoe, who led their team with 10 points apiece.
With 2:21 remaining in the game the Trojans began to foul, and despite Nathan Martel of Downers North hitting two 3-pointers in a row to bring his team to within six, OPRF made its free throws to seal the 62-53 victory.
"The game was much closer than it should have been. We missed a lot of easy shots, especially around the basket, and I was disappointed in our rebounding," Allen said of the team's performance.
Even with the disappointments however, Allen was able to take some joy in defeating Downers North, a team OPRF lost to earlier in the season.
"It's nice to beat Downers North after losing to them in January," said Allen. "It's also an important win because it moves us into second in the conference."
The Huskies next travel to Hinsdale Central on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Lyons 8 2 18 4
OPRF 7 3 13 9
Proviso West 5 5 14 10
Hinsdale Central 5 5 10 13
Downers North 4 5 8 15
York 3 7 13 11
Glenbard West 3 8 12 11