Entering Saturday’s West Suburban Conference Silver Division matchup at Hinsdale Central, the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team intended to shake off losses to Notre Dame and Wheaton-Warrenville South in the recent WWS Martin Luther King Tournament.
For the first three quarters, the Huskies looked like the team that started the season with nine consecutive victories, forcing numerous turnovers and establishing total domination on the glass. However, the fourth quarter left OPRF coach Matt Maloney a bit frustrated.
“I thought up until the last five minutes, we played tremendous basketball,” Maloney said after the Huskies’ 65-57 win. “When we took our top seven guys out, we were up 28 points. There’s no way (the reserves) should come in and give up that big of a lead in a short period of time. We’ve got to have guys coming in ready because you never know when an injury or illness might occur. There’s no way a 28-point lead with five minutes to go should be cut to single digits.”
The 26-6 closing run by Hinsdale Central marred what was otherwise a largely dominant performance by the Huskies (14-4, 5-0 West Suburban Silver). OPRF never trailed and held the Red Devils scoreless for almost the first six minutes of the game while building up a 13-0 lead. OPRF led 20-10 after the first quarter.
“We’ve got to keep pressure up in all four quarters,” OPRF senior forward Malachi Ross said. “When our subs come in, they’ve got to come with waves of energy like the starters. We can’t ever let our foot off of the gas pedal.”
The Red Devils (4-13, 2-4) pulled within 26-23 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half, but OPRF went on a 13-1 run to take a 39-24 lead into halftime. Impressive inside play by Ross and junior forwards Charlie Hoehne and Anthony Roberts fueled the Huskies’ spurt. Ross, hobbled by earlier injuries, seems to be hitting his stride as the season progresses.
“I thought we came out with energy and effort,” Ross said. “I’m feeling better. I’ve got great trainers helping me out and trying to get me better day-by-day.”
Maloney praised the work of OPRF’s frontline players.
“That’s the best Malachi has played all year,” said Maloney of Ross, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. “Malachi is a high-energy guy on the glass who finishes around the basket and gives us extra possessions. That’s what we need from him if we’re going to be dangerous the second half of the year.
“Anthony’s coming along nicely. I thought Charlie had his best game in a while. It was good to see him rebounding and shooting the ball well.”
Ross, Roberts (8 points, 5 rebounds), and Hoehne (8 points, 11 rebounds) led the way to a 34-18 rebounding edge for the Huskies.
“We’ve got big bodies and we know how to use them,” Hoehne said.
OPRF went on a 16-0 run to open up its biggest lead at 59-31 early in the fourth quarter. Both teams pulled their starters midway through the fourth, but the Huskies reserves committed turnovers to allow the Red Devils to go on a 12-0 run. With two minutes to go, Maloney put his starters back in to finish the game.
OPRF senior guard Isaiah Fuller scored a game-high 15 points. Dashon Enoch added nine points and Chase Robinson had eight points to fuel the Huskies’ balanced attack.
Charlie Lyne led Hinsdale Central with 11 points, and Josh Lange added nine points off the bench late in the game.
The late Norm Van Lier – a great point guard with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s – used to say, “Give me 48 minutes of intensity! That’s all I ask.”
If OPRF wants to make a deep postseason run this year, it has to give 32 minutes of intensity every game. And the players realize it.
“We came out ready to play, but we’ve got to close out a little better,” Hoehne said.
The OPRF girls basketball team also played at Hinsdale Central Saturday. The short-handed Huskies defeated the Red Devils 59-46. The win was impressive given that OPRF was missing two starters to injury – Amaya Coleman and Darse Sanchez.
“This was a really nice win for us,” OPRF coach JP Coughlin said. “With Darse out, that’s 19 points per game we have to replace. A bunch of kids stepped up today. Joi (Holman) was fantastic on both ends for us.”
Ahsha Spencer led the Huskies with 19 points and Holman scored 11.
OPRF is on the road next weekend with games Friday, Jan. 26 at Proviso West (6 p.m.) and Saturday, Jan. 27 at Lyons Township (6:30 p.m.).