By Brad Spencer
It's always difficult for a team to secure three straight victories over another team in the same season. That's what the OPRF boys basketball team had going for it after falling to York 66-56 to close out the regular season in Oak Park last week.
The Huskies (10-13, 5-7), who also lost to the Dukes 68-67 back in January, were scheduled to host their West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival last night (after deadline) in the semifinal of the Class 4A Oak Park Regional.
York's Will Sullivan was the culprit in January's contest, hitting a 15-foot fade-away jumper in the closing seconds. Sullivan scored the last points of Thursday night's game as well, but the senior guard wasn't the main factor in the Huskies' demise. David Cohn did most of the damage for York (19-8, 9-3). The scrappy 6-foot-2 guard went 8-for-8 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and finished the stanza with 10 points. He scored 23 points in the game, including 14 in the second half.
As for OPRF, the team got off to a lackluster start, falling behind 11-0 in the opening quarter. Ka'Darryll Bell scored the Huskies' first points of the game off a three-pointer with 1:32 left in the quarter. But that was the only basket the team made for the entire stanza as York entered the second up 13-3.
OPRF's back didn't break with the rough start. The team quickly regrouped, chipping away at the deficit with some accurate free-throw shooting. Bell made 5-of-6 from the charity stripe and hit a monster three-pointer with 3:17 to go in the half to cut the difference to 22-21. Nearly a minute later OPRF's Gabe Levin, standing at the top of the key, drilled a pass under the basket to Brian Miller, who promptly laid it in to knot the score at 25-25.
Sullivan, who ended up with 20 points in the game, closed out the first half with a fast-break layup to give the Dukes a 30-27 advantage.
"The game plan was to limit the amount of times their key players had the ball," said OPRF head coach Matt Maloney. "But we didn't execute that well enough and we didn't anticipate Cohn and [Cody] Kliethermes to play the way they did tonight."
Kliethermes, who hit a key three-pointer to put the Dukes up 55-50 with 4:01 left in the game, finished with 14 points.
"We can't allow three players to score that many points against us," said Maloney. "They started the game strong and they ended it strong, and that's why they won the game. We needed to keep our second quarter momentum going throughout the second half, but we just didn't do that."
Bell led the Huskies with 19 points, while Levin added 12 and Josh Lang 10.
Last week's loss was OPRF's fifth in a row. If the Huskies were able to get by York on Tuesday night, they'll face No. 1 seed De La Salle in the regional championship on March 4 (7:30 p.m.) at OPRF.