Senior Dallis Flowers wasn’t about to let the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team have a repeat performance against Lyons Township Friday.
“After that first quarter when we were struggling – we were down 7-2 – I knew I had to turn the team around and just get us going,” Flowers said.
Flowers not only responded with an 11-point second quarter but he also contributed to a strong defensive effort. The result was an emotional 52-43 victory over the West Suburban Conference Silver Division leaders in La Grange.
“This is one of the tops because LT is (ranked) top 15 in the state – and it’s at their home court. They have a crazy fan base,” Flowers said. “[We] were pushing the ball and rebounding, and playing good team defense.”
Flowers finished with 24 points, his second-highest single-game total, with three of the team’s five three pointers. Sophomore reserve Cameron Gross scored nine points and junior Breshawn Wilkerson had eight, including 6-for-6 free-throw shooting in the final 1:42.
With Flowers its only senior starter, OPRF (11-9, 4-5 West Suburban Silver) added to an impressive victory list that includes Peoria Manual, Evanston and Hinsdale Central. LTHS (18-5, 7-2) leads the conference by one game over Hinsdale Central.
“That was probably one of our most complete games of the year,” OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. “We didn’t look great offensively in the first quarter, but we definitely controlled the tempo. We didn’t rush our shots. Our players stuck with the game plan and we slowly chipped away.”
On Dec. 19, OPRF was outscored by LT 16-2 in the second quarter and lost 60-51. On Friday, Flowers sparked a strong second quarter that put the Huskies ahead 22-17 at halftime.
“[Wilkerson and junior Connor Fuller] were getting me great looks and passing me the ball when I was open so I owe it to them,” Flowers said.
OPRF led 32-25 entering the fourth quarter and by at least four points down the stretch. The Huskies remained patient and made 13-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter, including 11-for-12 in the final 1:42, to finish 17-for-20 from the charity stripe.
“Our league is good. Oak Park was too good for us tonight to not play well and win,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “We did not shoot well. A lot of that had to do with Oak Park’s defense, but we did not play well offensively.”
The Lions were held to 33 percent field-goal shooting and their second-lowest single-game total this season. Senior guard Harrison Niego had 14 points with 10 in the fourth quarter and a pair of threes in the final 1:12.
“I’m mostly proud of my defensive effort than my offensive effort because that’s what separates great players,” Flowers said.
“Our defensive energy was absolutely tremendous, great team D,” Maloney said. “Harrison Niego is a tremendous player, one of the top guards in the state, and Dallis went toe-to-toe with him. Wilkerson had a phenomenal game on him, but our team D to help also was great and we cleaned the boards in the second half.”
LTHS closed to 37-33 with 2:46 but missed a driving shot on its next possession. After two free throws by Wilkerson, Flowers surprised the Lions by going from passing mode to driving for an easy layup and a 41-33 lead with 1:25 left.
“We’re starting to figure it out at the right time,” Maloney said. “We’re not going to celebrate this one and kind of have a letdown the next one, but just try to trend upward because I think what these guys showed is obviously they have some potential.”