It took a big man to silence a big crowd in Friday Night’s West Suburban (Silver) Conference clash between Lyons Township and Oak Park and River Forest. Six-foot-7-inch center Adam Powers had 15 points and eight rebounds in leading the visiting Lions (4-0, 1-0) to a 54-43 victory over the defending conference champion Huskies. Moreover, Powers’ performance sent home the Huskie faithful feeling disappointed.
The Huskies (3-2, 0-1) were never able to recover from a slow start. The first half saw OPRF manage only 10 points and make several mental mistakes on offense. OPRF head coach Al Allen gave credit to LT for what he saw as a tremendous defensive effort.
“They played great defense and took us out of all our offenses. There was not even that many missed shots but we could not get anything going offensively. They showed multiple defensive looks and had our offense confused. My hats of to them,” said Allen.
LT’s defensive strategy keyed in on OPRF forward Robert Strzemp. The senior power forward came into Friday’s contest averaging just over 20 points per a game. The Lions held Strzemp to eight points by playing tough off-the-ball defense and forcing OPRF’s other players to try and score.
“The game plan was to make sure that Robert Strzemp did not score, and it was very successful. They did not care what the other guys did,” said Allen after the game.
After OPRF forward Brandon Lathon scored the game’s first two points, LT went on an 8-0 run. The Lions’ quick guards broke OPRF’s full court pressure all evening long. The Huskies found themselves trailing 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
“They broke the press pretty well, we made some mistakes too,” Allen said.
OPRF center Howard Boone’s earth shattering dunk, early in the second quarter, could have been a turning point for the Huskies. Boone’s one-handed dunk over Powers sent the crowd into a frenzy and forced LT to take a timeout. However, the dunk would be the Huskies’ field goal of the quarter. LT outscored OPRF by an 8-1 margin for the remainder of the half. The Huskies would go into the half trailing 24-10.
“It was a nice dunk”one of the better dunks I have ever seen. But, that is two of the 10 points we got in an entire half of basketball,” Allen said.
In the third quarter, the pace of the game became more up-tempo. OPRF increased its defensive pressure to try and create more turnovers. Conversely, Lyons also turned up its defensive intensity, which resulted in LT getting into foul trouble. The Huskies were able to get to the free-throw line often in the second half.
Gabe Simms, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half, became more aggressive and took the ball to the hoop.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Huskies cut LT’s lead to eight points. It was then that LT looked to Adam Powers, their all-conference big man, for some scoring. Powers delivered, scoring inside on consecutive LT possessions to put the Huskies away for good.
It was apparent that at least some of OPRF’s inability to score can be attributed to the loss of all-conference guard Evan Hilton to a fractured foot. With Hilton sidelined until early January, Allen believes someone needs to step up and carry the load.
“We got to get people to step up and play their position because we have a hole in the backcourt and we’ve got to find a way to fill that hole,” Allen said.
The Huskies host conference foe Glenbard West on Friday with tip-off at 7:30 p.m. They’ll play at home again on Saturday (7:30 p.m.), in a non-conference game against New Trier.