I never thought that I would be writing a “Tate’s Take” column recapping the Oak Park and River Forest boys basketball season so soon. I felt the Huskies would make it to the Class 4A Riverside-Brookfield Sectional this week.
But I was reminded Friday night that one never counts their chickens before they hatch. In other words, the state playoffs are truly unpredictable and anything can happen. OPRF (23-6), the No. 3 seed in the sectional, suffered a 74-70 overtime loss to Lincoln Park in the Lane Tech Regional title game. Terrence Shannon’s 40-foot 3-point shot with three seconds left proved to be the game-winner for the Lions. It was the capper to a phenomenal night for Shannon, who finished with 42 points.
In his final game as a Huskie, Isaiah Fuller had a team-high 25 points. Juniors Anthony Roberts added 16 points and Chase Robinson 15 for OPRF.
I hope the players realize that once the pain and disappointment of losing to Lincoln Park subsides, OPRF has had terrific back-to-back seasons. The Huskies finished 12-0 in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. OPRF also won the crossover West Suburban title games the last two years. In all, a 23-1 mark and back-to-back conference championships is sure to leave a legacy.
There were several other highlights for this season. The Huskies’ 64-59 win over Fenwick at the Chicago Elite Classic marked the first time since 2011 that OPRF had been victorious over the crosstown rival Friars. I went to the game and noticed all the joyous emotion on the players’ faces afterwards. Even OPRF head coach Matt Maloney was fist-pumping and showing genuine glee at the end.
OPRF had a strong showing in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, probably the premier holiday event in the state. The Huskies won their first two games and played an intense semifinal game against Curie that went down to the wire. Unfortunately, Marquise Walker’s buzzer-beating trey gave the Condors the win, and OPRF subsequently lost the third-place game. Fuller was named to the All-Tournament team.
This was my first season covering the team, and I want to thank coach Maloney and his players for making my job easier. Maloney was always helpful and willing to talk after every game. He’s a good man and I hope to get to work with him again in the future. His players were equally cooperative.
Looking ahead to next season, there’s no question that seniors like Fuller, Malachi Ross, Phil Saleh, and Sid Allgood will be missed. They were the foundation of OPRF’s recent conference dominance.
However, there is plenty of good talent returning. Robinson and Dashon Enoch could be one of the Chicago area’s best guard duos in 2018-19, while Roberts and Charlie Hoehne provide good frontcourt experience.
Can OPRF gain a three-peat in the West Suburban Silver? It’s way too early to tell, but another exciting and competitive team under Maloney’s guidance is likely.