Oak Park-River Forest boys basketball coach Matt Maloney resembled a traffic cop as much as a coach during the Huskies’ 76-56 loss to visiting Lyons Township on Friday night.
With first place in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference on the line, the scattered Huskies blew defensive coverages, were in wrong spots offensively, and generally appeared out of sync against the defending conference champion Lions.
“We had three defensive goals,” Maloney said. “The first one was to make LT count by two [points] not by three, which was the only goal we did effectively. The second goal was no transition points, which obviously we failed miserably at, and the third [goal] was limiting their second shots, which we didn’t do in the second half.
“I was disappointed with our effort and our physical and mental toughness at times. I know we are a young team, but we need to improve in those areas.”
Lyons (13-2, 4-0) used its superior size to methodically execute a solid game plan on both ends of the floor to pull off the surprisingly comfortable win, especially considering the Huskies had just knocked off well-regarded Proviso West.
With every starter 6-foot-4 or taller, the Lions ran their half court offense flawlessly and wore down OPRF. Defensively, LT was comparably effective, implementing a 1-3-1 half-court trap that forced 24 turnovers from the Huskies.
“We knew that 1-3-1 [trap] was coming,” Maloney said. “I thought we were prepared for it, but obviously I need to make sure I do a better job of teaching what our players need to do.”
OPRF (7-5, 3-1) jumped out to a 6-2 lead as seniors Brian Miller and Josh Lang scored three points apiece. The 6-foot Lang brought the Huskies’ fans to their feet with a steal and spectacular breakaway dunk that put OPRF up 12-11 with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
“We came out aggressive on both ends,” Lang said. “Our defense started to slack off when they ran on us. As a team, we all have to grow up together.”
Lyons reserve forward Dylan Fiedler scored on an offensive put-back to give LT the lead for good at 17-15 late in the period.
Leading 19-15 after one quarter, the Lions went on a 10-1 run to open the second quarter, fueled by six points from Nick Zeisloft. Fiedler added a dunk to put LT up 31-18 as OPRF blew a defensive coverage.
The Illinois State-bound Zeisloft scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as the Lions raced to a 44-27 lead at halftime. Fiedler shared team scoring honors with 16 points.
Lang paced the Huskies with a game-high 22 points, making 8-of-9 shots from the floor.
“Josh was the one guy who understood what we were trying to do against LT’s zone,” Maloney said. “He was willing to attack the gaps especially when we moved the ball quickly.”
Gabe Levin contributed 15 points and seven rebounds for OPRF. Saddled with foul trouble, the Huskies’ top scorer, the 6-1 junior Ka’Darryl Bell, never got on track offensively, finishing with six points.
OPRF travels to Glenbard West on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and York on Saturday (6 p.m.).