The OPRF girls basketball team lost a 55-53 nail-biter to Evanston on Saturday afternoon, but took another step in their quest for a West Suburban (Silver) Conference title by edging Downers Grove North 58-50 on Friday night.
Against Evanston, OPRF jumped to a quick 7-1 lead and ballooned it to 11-1 before capping off the opening quarter up 18-5. The Huskies (15-10) looked poised to grab back-to-back victories. But the Wildkits went on a 9-0 run in the second and briefly took a 22-21 lead before OPRF escaped the first half up 28-26, thanks to a three-pointer by Amber Lara.
OPRF’s main scorer Stekara Hall was hit with her fourth foul in the third quarter and forced to the bench with her team holding on to a tenuous 45-42 lead. The junior forward had just three points in the first half.
Led by Leiya English, Evanston (13-10) took a 51-48 lead late in the fourth. Hall evened the score with a three-point play after being fouled on a made jumper and sinking the free throw. But with seconds left on the clock, two shots by Hall bounced off the back of the rim and Evanston ended up with possession.
With 7.7 seconds left in the game, English dribbled the length of the court and sunk a layup at the buzzer to hand the stunned Huskies the loss.
“I think our girls were fearful of fouling,” said OPRF head coach Bob Biggins about the final play that sealed his team’s fate. “I take the blame for not calling a better defensive scheme. Over the years, we’ve had similar games with Evanston; they’re a mirror image of us.”
English finished with a game-high 24 points. Hall led OPRF with 12 points to go along with nine rebounds and four steals. Shelby Cozette added nine points, five assists and three steals for OPRF.
“Perhaps we had a letdown after winning Friday night, but it wasn’t a happy locker room, and we’ll seek to channel that energy into [this] week,” added Biggins.
On Friday night against Downers Grove North, Hall scored 20 points, including 10 in the first quarter. The Huskies trailed by one at halftime but took a seven-point lead in the third. OPRF secured the win in the fourth with accurate free-throw shooting. The team made 11-of-12 at the line, including 7-of-8 by Cozette.
The victory pushed OPRF’s conference mark to 7-2, tying the Huskies with York for first place in the conference. OPRF travels to Hinsdale Central on Friday and hosts York for Senior Night on Saturday (6 p.m.).