OPRF and York were supposed to be the cream of the West Suburban (Silver) Conference this year, and nothing happened to suggest otherwise when they met in Oak Park Friday night.
York used a 7-0 run to break open a tie game midway through the fourth quarter and prevail 70-60 in what OPRF boys basketball coach Al Allen described as a “heavyweight battle.”
Just a few games into the schedule, York (8-0, 2-0) became the only team unbeaten in conference play. OPRF (7-2, 2-1) fell into second place.
Neither team led by more than six until a York layup finished the 7-0 spurt and made the score 56-49 with 2 minutes 28 seconds left in the game. The Dukes shot 6-of-7 from the free-throw line in the final minute to secure the win.
OPRF led 44-41 and had all the momentum after a 9-0 run toward the end of the third quarter. At three points, it matched the Huskies’ biggest lead of the game and was their first since it was 5-2.
But York closed the quarter with four quick points, including a layup at the buzzer off a steal by Joe Acosta. Allen said it was a completely different game after the steal, which came as the Huskies tried to set up an isolation play for Lamont Sanders. The Dukes went on to outscore OPRF 25-16 in the fourth quarter.
It was suggested to York coach Al Biancalana that Friday night’s game solidified his team and OPRF’s as the frontrunners for the conference title.
“I’m not going to say that, but we are off to a great start,” Biancalana said. “I’ve known Coach Allen a long time and I consider him one of the finest coaches in the state, so to come in to their place and win, with the storied tradition of the Oak Park program, it’s special.”
The Huskies were led by sophomore Daniel Barnes, who hit five three-pointers and tied York’s Sean Fendley for a game-high 21 points. Barnes’ playing time has increased as his defense has improved, and he’s become a more consistent offensive threat.
“The coaches are working with me, basically on moving without the ball and trying to get open,” said Barnes, who also led the Huskies with 21 points in their 68-41 thrashing of New Trier on Dec. 13. “When I get it, if I can score, do it, but at least get the ball into the post.”
Barnes described Allen as “not angry, but disappointed” with the defeat. “We set out to play good defense, all four quarters, and there was one point in the fourth quarter where we just couldn’t guard anybody,” he said.
The first half featured seven ties and six lead changes. York’s Fendley made four three-pointers, scoring 10 points in the first quarter and 16 by halftime. The Huskies limited him to five points in the second half, but York’s big men took control inside in the fourth quarter.
“They got their boys from the York football team in there, and they were just about to outmuscle us because they’re stronger than us,” Allen said. “This was the first game that we got beat up badly on the boards.”
Barnes was one of three sophomore starters for the Huskies, joining regular point guard Iman Shumpert and Adam Taylor, who filled in for Lamont Sanders. Sanders injured his knee against New Trier but was able to come off the bench to score 15 points Friday night. Shumpert (seven points) went down midway through the York game with a hamstring injury, but Allen expected both him and Sanders to be back at full strength in time for the Huskies’ next game, Dec. 28 at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
OPRF will have its hands full with the 16-team Pontiac field that features Schaumburg, Simeon, Warren, and West Aurora, all ranked in the Top 20 by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.