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The OPRF boys basketball team did something Thursday that they haven't done in over 20 years.
The Huskies (20-9) edged their West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival York 43-39 in the class 4A sectional semifinal at Schaumburg High School, and advanced to play Proviso East Friday night in the sectional championship game. Friday's matchup is the first sectional championship game for OPRF since 1992, when head coach Matt Maloney was a junior on the Huskies' squad.
"Those were some great Oak Park teams that I had the pleasure of playing for," Maloney said. "To be able to get back to this point has been huge. We talked about making some history and getting to that (sectional) final game. It's one game, not a best of seven, so let's see what we can do when we get there."
After a tight first half that brought both teams to the locker room tied at 19, the Huskies' defense stepped up in the second half to contain York senior guard David Cohn, who was held to just six points after scoring 10 in the first half.
"Our defense has been great all year," said Huskies junior guard Erick Locke. "I think we really tightened up and rotated the shooters and made it tough for them to get wide open shots. (York) is a great team and they run great sets, but I think we made it difficult for them to get comfortable (in the second half)."
The Huskies started the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. It was Locke who got things going as he was fouled while making a basket from the right side and made his free-throw to tie the game at 30. Senior guard Alex Gustafson continued the run with a three-pointer from the left wing, and Locke came up with a steal on the next play and scored on a layup to put the Huskies up by five.
"We felt like the game was at a standstill (before the fourth quarter)," Locke said. "We were going back and forth, so I felt like I had to get myself going to help get the guys going. Luckily, I was able to do that and we were able to stretch our lead at the end of the game."
Locke led the Huskies with 15 points, while junior guard Jason Gant followed with seven and Gustafson notched six.
With the Huskies up 42-39 with five seconds left to play in the game, Cohn had a chance to tie the game and keep the Dukes alive with a three-point attempt from the middle, but couldn't convert. The Huskies got an insurance point from a Locke free-throw with 3.4 seconds to go, and York junior guard Jack Heinle's down-court pass attempt was intercepted by Huskies senior forward/center Tacourrus Mattox on the following play to end the game.
Locke said he and his teammates are proud to be part of an OPRF team that made history this season.
"The atmosphere was great," he said. "Having the fans behind you and creating excitement in the school and the community is just a great feeling."