One of the real treats and traditions of attending an OPRF boys basketball game is to hear the band’s rendition of “Call Me Al,” a very direct, heartfelt musical salute to the Huskies’ popular coach Al Allen. While Allen and his players must feel like they are playing our song, the West Suburban (Silver) Conference might go by another tune this season
“Wild, Wild West” by admittedly old-school rapper Kool Moe Dee, perhaps best encapsulates in verse the crazy conference race where four teams currently hold a legitimate shot at the top spot.
The Huskies (13-5, 3-2) took another step toward that championship direction with a 55-43 win over host Hinsdale Central on Friday night. Trailing 22-18 at the half, Daniel Barnes keyed a 7-0 spurt in the third quarter to rally the Huskies to victory. The silky smooth guard scored 11 of his game-high 17 points during the productive period. Iman Shumpert added 11 points for OPRF.
The key to victory was the Huskies’ defensive pressure in the second half, which forced turnovers and easier scoring opportunities in transition against the Red Devils.
“In the first half, we didn’t play that tight of a defense,” said Barnes, an Eastern Michigan recruit. “Coach Allen told us to pick up our defense and pressure their guards. As the game went on, we didn’t really have to run a lot of our offense. We played our primary game and played up tempo.”
OPRF guard Marcus Acree ended the game in style with an emphatic slam dunk. Allen credited the inspired play of 6-foot-2-inch senior reserve Seth Kazarian, who scored four points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kazarian has filled in admirably for key reserve Mark Willis (out for season with torn ACL).
“In the third quarter we had a burst which gave us a cushion,” Allen said. “We were able to maintain that cushion the rest of the game. We were struggling in the first half because Adam Taylor got into foul trouble. We continued to apply defensive pressure, and I think that did a lot to get us over the hump.”
Chris Chana led the Red Devils (9-5, 1-3) with 17 points, including 4-for-4 from the 3-point line.
“Defensively, we had to adjust,” Taylor said. “When we put up a good defensive stand, then rebound and run, those are the best parts of our game. It’s just a matter of us getting better and building our chemistry. I think we will be where people expected us to all year long come playoff-time.”
The Huskies welcome in Proviso West Friday (7:30 p.m.) at the Field House. After a horrible start to their season, the Panthers (4-9) are coming around with a 3-1 conference mark. Allen is clearly aware of the dangerous, athletic Panthers.
“When we play Proviso West, you can throw the records out the window,” Allen said. “Proviso West gets up to play us. It’s always a tough game.”
Regardless of the outcome, Allen also knows the Silver Division is just starting to heat up. Lyons Township (14-2 overall), who defeated the Huskies earlier in the year, is 4-1 in conference. York (11-5) and Proviso West are both 3-1 with OPRF in hot pursuit at 3-2.