Lyons  55
OPRF   52

Last season, Iman Shumpert, Daniel Barnes and Adam Taylor led the OPRF boys basketball team past Lyons Township to clinch the West Suburban (Silver) Conference Championship. Plenty of fresh faces renewed the familiar conference rivalry on Friday night in Oak Park, but this time Lyons Township came out on the winning end with a 55-52 victory over the Huskies.

OPRF’s “Big Three” are now in college and former head coach Al Allen is retired. Lyons Township can relate to the Huskies’ season of change. With coach Conte Stamas retired and last year’s stellar frontline graduated, head coach Tom Sloan called upon the Lions’ new trio of post players-6-foot-5 Mike Stanton, 6-4 Dan LaLonde and 6-4 Justin Phipps-to control the paint against OPRF.

Although Huskies (10-8, 3-3) center Jeff Dirkin (16 points, 4 blocks) played well, Stanton (8 points, 8 rebounds), LaLonde (8 points, 5 rebounds) and Phipps (8 points) matched his effect with a solid, collective effort.

The Lions’ backcourt chipped in as well. Senior guards Kevin Dunne (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Kevin Muldowney (6 points, 4 rebounds) triggered a 10-2 run for LT to open the game. A three-pointer by Austin Lusson, a basket by Stanton and two successful drives to the cup by Dunne extended the LT lead to 19-6 at the end of the first quarter.

“We had a very poor start,” said OPRF’s first-year head coach Matt Maloney. “I think it was just a lack of focus and a lack of energy to start the game.”

In the second quarter, the Huskies climbed their way back into the game with a 13-6 run, courtesy of increased defensive pressure and timely scoring from Dirkin. Promising OPRF freshman Antonio Foster (8 points) added a pair of clutch three-pointers as the Huskies whittled the Lions’ lead to 29-27 by halftime.

“Our No. 1 goal was to speed the game up and make them play our tempo,” Maloney said. “We did that in spurts, but it let up for us a bit.”

With LT holding a 39-33 edge in the third quarter, OPRF battled back with a 7-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 40-39. Senior reserve Vida Durazo (6 points) sparked the Huskies’ run and Zach Peterson (5 points, 4 assists) gave OPRF its lead on a free throw.

Down the stretch, Phipps provided three consecutive baskets and Lyons (8-8, 3-3) converted 7-of-8 free throw attempts to hold off the Huskies.

“Whenever we play Oak Park, it’s a tough game,” Phipps said. “We played hard and it paid off in the fourth quarter.”

OPRF swingman De’Angelo Speech (9 points, 3 rebounds) nailed a three-pointer with less than a second remaining to make the final score 55-52.

On Saturday night, OPRF bounced back to defeat Glenbard West 44-39, snapping a three-game conference losing streak. Godbold led the Huskies with 10 points.

“We still think we have that run in us,” Maloney said. “We want to be playing our best basketball in February and surprise some people [in March] in the sectional playoffs.”

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...