The Oak Park and River Forest boys basketball team seemingly created some elbow room in a very tight West Suburban (Silver) Conference race with its 50-43 win on Friday night over rival Proviso West. In the waning seconds of the game though, the host Huskies’ high fives and hugs were tempered when star guard Iman Shumpert hyper-extended his left elbow in an accidental collision with a referee.
The following night, the Huskies’ sudden misfortunes continued with a 60-57 loss at Glenbard West and the sobering prognosis confirmed that Shumpert will be out 2-3 weeks and likely more.
“I’ve been told with this injury that I’ll be out at least two weeks and that I can forget about playing in the next couple of games,” said Shumpert, who has his left arm in a sling. “They told me the x-rays indicate it might be a stress fracture. If I’m lucky, I’ll be back for the second round of the playoffs.”
With his most prolific player out indefinitely, OPRF coach Al Allen will rely on his rotation players and key reserves like Blake Austin, Nate Willey and Marcus Acree to help win games sans Shumpert.
“The timetable for Iman is that I am assuming that he won’t be back and we’ll have to move on from there,” Allen said. “As far as I’m concerned, he won’t be back. When he does come back, he’ll be out of sync.”
The Huskies (21-5, 9-2), currently tied with Proviso West (19-5, 9-2), still hold the inside track to the conference title due to their season series sweep of the Panthers. OPRF previously defeated Proviso West 68-57 on Jan. 19.
The highly anticipated rematch between the Huskies and Panthers lived up to the hype in terms of intensity, if not always basketball efficiency, during the first 28 minutes of play. With both teams struggling to score, neither squad held more than a four-point advantage until a decisive spurt by the Huskies midway through the fourth quarter.
“This was a heavyweight fight,” Allen said. “Proviso West is a very good team. Luckily, we ended up on the winning end this time. Now, we’ll have to play them again [the teams may meet in the regional final on Friday, March 2].”
With the Panthers clinging to a 32-30 lead and 4:29 remaining, OPRF guard Daniel Barnes (12 points) nailed a three-pointer off an inbounds play to give the Huskies a 33-32 lead. The Huskies, who exploded for 24 fourth quarter points, would not relinquish the lead, outscoring the Panthers 17-11 the rest of the way.
OPRF secured the victory thanks to the savvy ball handling of Phil Gary and clutch team free throw shooting, converting 10-of-12 attempts down the stretch. In addition to Barnes’ team-high 12 points, Gary (11 points), Shumpert (11 points), and Lamont Sanders (nine points) provided offensive support.
On Saturday night, the Huskies fell to Glenbard West 60-57. Gary led the Huskies with 19 points, while Barnes added 16.
The Huskies finish up the regular season at home Friday night (7:30 p.m.) against Lyons Township.