There are four quarters in a high school boys basketball game and OPRF played one really well on Thursday night to defeat Walther Lutheran 55-43 in the team’s home opener at the Field House in Oak Park.
It was the second quarter that sparked the Huskies in what started out a sloppy game for both teams. OPRF (5-1, 1-0) went into the stanza trailing 11-9 due to cold shooting and a plethora of turnovers. Josh Lang’s steal and Gabe Levin’s subsequent jumper to begin the second period seemed to energize the team, especially on defense. OPRF held the Broncos scoreless until 2:48 was left in the half by switching from a full-court press to a stifling zone defense.
Ka’Darryl Bell led the charge on offense, scoring seven points in the period, including a three-pointer at the buzzer to put his team up 25-17 at halftime. OPRF’s lead was stymied by atrocious free-throw shooting (4-of-12).
“Our first few games we’ve come out slow like that and then we seem to turn it on,” said Bell, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “We need to do a better job getting off to better starts. It’s something that will hurt us down the road if we don’t fix it.”
Walther Lutheran cut the deficit to four in the third but never did tie or regain the lead. The Huskies went up 36-29 after three quarters but did not put their opponent away until 5:21 left in the game when Bell completed two consecutive three-point plays after being fouled on made shots. The effort gave the Huskies a 50-34 advantage.
“Our free-throw shooting fluctuates, but we need to do better in that regard in order to put teams away,” said Bell, who made 9-of-12 from the charity stripe in the game. As a team, the Huskies connected on just 19-of-40 free throws. “We need to be more consistent.”
OPRF head coach Matt Maloney was slapped with a technical foul at the start of the fourth quarter. Walther Lutheran’s Chris Stevens sunk both freebies to put the Broncos within five, 36-31, but Bell answered with a floating jumper and Levin hit Brian Miller with a zip pass underneath for a quick shot off the backboard.
Both teams finished with three players scoring in double digits. Besides Bell’s exploits, Lang scored 12 and Levin 10 for the Huskies. Levin also finished with 15 rebounds. Tyreese Russell led Walther Lutheran with 17 points, while Sean Cotton and Stevens added 11 apiece.
OPRF hosts Evanston Township on Dec. 14 (7 p.m.) and jumps back into West Suburban (Silver) Conference action at home on Dec. 17 (7:30 p.m.) against Hinsdale Central.