Maeve Nelson and her teammates were defeated yet defiant Thursday night.
The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls basketball team saw its lead in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division race cut in half thanks to a 49-45 overtime loss to host Downers Grove North.
The Huskies (9-12, 6-2), who have lost two straight, had beaten the Trojans 54-42 on Dec. 3 but could not complete the season sweep as Downers North (13-6, 4-3) was able to pull out a game that featured seven lead changes and five ties.
The loss left the Huskies one game up on the Trojans and Lyons Township in the loss column as they attempt to win the league title for just the third time in the past 25 years.
“We’re still first place in conference,” Nelson said. “Ultimately that’s what we’re going for so this is just a bump in the road, I’d say.
“We’re still focused. I don’t think it’s going to rattle us.”
The Huskies rattled the Trojans, who have won 10 of their last 12 games, by rushing out to a 17-6 lead when Madison Siler fed center Crystal Corr for an inside basket at the 2:50 mark of the second quarter.
But Downers North, which missed 13 straight shots at one point and was 3-for-25 in the first half, took advantage of some OPRF foul trouble to roar back in the second half, using a 10-2 run to go ahead 34-31 after three quarters.
“I think we came out expecting to win because we beat them last time,” Nelson said. “Then they started making shots that they didn’t make last time and we were just fazed by that. We came back and we started playing strong but a little too late.”
Penn State-bound star Jaida Green sank a three-pointer to give the Trojans a 43-41 lead with 1:20 left in regulation and a turnover seemingly had the Huskies on the ropes.
But Nelson dove on the floor to make a steal with 35 seconds left and later drove the lane, rebounded her own miss and scored the tying basket with :08 remaining.
The defensive-minded Nelson had an impressive all-around effort, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists.
“With our bigs in foul trouble, with Crystal and Blair (Ripley) having to sit out a large portion of the game, I felt like I needed to step up offensively,” Nelson said. “It’s not really (an area) where I would master in, I’d say, so I kind of did what I had to do.”
Nelson nearly willed the Huskies to victory in the overtime. OPRF went 1-for-9 from the floor, with Siler scoring the lone basket off a Nelson assist to tie the game at 45-45 with 2:20 left, but the visitors still had chances after that.
The Trojans took a 47-45 lead on a jumper by Lauren Porcelli with 1:59 to go but missed two one-and-ones in the final minute and turned the ball over twice, including one on a steal by Nelson, who streaked down the lane but missed the layup with 21 seconds to go.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Nelson said. “There were a few of those but there’s nothing I can do about that now.”
Reserve Carrington McGowan had a look to tie the game but shot an air ball with two ticks left and Porcelli sealed the deal with two free throws.
“We had our chances,” OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin said. “We played good, they played great.
“I’m not too upset. Obviously you miss layups and free throws and you get upset but it’s not through lack of effort.
“We put ourselves in a good spot to win the game. We’ve finished all year. We just didn’t finish tonight.”
Siler tied Green for game-high scoring honors with 16 points and also had seven rebounds and three assists, while Ripley added 11 points and Molly Cullinane eight for the Huskies.