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The OPRF boys basketball team proved on Friday night that practice not only makes perfect, but a good solid week of practice can defeat perfection.

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Playing in front of a packed OPRF field house, the Huskies edged Lyons Township 59-55, snapping the Lions’ bid for an undefeated season at 23 wins. The victory also sparked a wild celebration as the OPRF student section, the Dog Pound, stormed the court.

“I never had a week of practice as hard [as this week],” said OPRF guard Antonio Foster amid the frenzy. “This is a game that’s going to be remembered and we wanted to put on a show. The intensity in practice was twice as hard as the game.”

On Jan 22, LT squeaked by the Huskies 57-52 in a game that the Lions’ Dan Lalonde emphatically ended on a two-handed dunk. Despite Lalonde missing Friday’s rematch due to a calf injury, both teams played extremely well. The Huskies (20-5, 8-3) and Lions (23-1, 10-1) turned in an instant West Suburban (Silver) Conference classic that included 16 lead changes.

OPRF’s 6-foot-6 forward Aaron Levin and LT’s 6-foot-3 swingman Spencer Mahoney set the tone early for a shootout when both players made a pair of three-pointers on four straight possessions midway through the first quarter.

The Huskies moved out to a 24-18 lead on a basket by John Weinheimer at the 3:41 mark of the second quarter; however, LT’s Justin Phipps and Mahoney scored the next four points to make it 24-22 at halftime.

The conference rivals played to a 15-all standstill in the third quarter, setting the stage for a wild finish.

Late in the fourth quarter, Phipps scored on a putback to put LT up 50-49, but the Huskies’ Jeff Stanciel-Wynn answered with a floating runner to regain the advantage at 51-50 with 1:32 remaining.

Unlike their first meeting, OPRF made free throws down the stretch. After LT’s Nick Zeisloft sank a pair of free throws to put the Lions up 52-51 with 1:18 remaining, OPRF converted 8-of-8 from the charity stripe while limiting LT to three points in the final minute.

“I thanked the Dog Pound, for the sixth man factor,” OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. “That really helped our guys having that support. I think it calmed their nerves at the free-throw line.”

Stanciel-Wynn scored a game-high 19 points for OPRF. Jeff Dirkin (9 points, 10 rebounds), Weinheimer (10 points, 4 rebounds) and Levin (10 points) also contributed.

“Lyons is a resilient team,” Weinheimer said. “No matter how many times you put them down they get right back in it. We answered their challenge every time. We played the game we had to play in order to win.”

Jimmy Stamas and Mahoney paced LT with 10 points each. Phipps added eight points and seven rebounds.

On Saturday, the Huskies routed Morton 86-49 in a nonconference game. Dirkin (17 points), Stanciel-Wynn (14 points) and Jordan Foster (10 points) led the way. OPRF will enter the playoffs as a dangerous team in the Proviso East Sectional.

“I think we can make a lot of noise in the playoffs,” Antonio Foster said. “This win over LT is probably the kick that we needed.”

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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...