After falling behind in six of their first seven games of the season, OPRF’s boys basketball team went into the Lions’ den looking to get things going early.
“Something we challenged them with in practice was winning the first three minutes,” said OPRF’s head coach Matt Maloney. “We started every practice with a super intense drill to show them that this is how the game is going to start and that we can’t wait until the second quarter to get it going.”
Mimicking in-game intensity at practice clearly contributed to the Huskies’ 70-56 takedown over Lyons Township High School on Dec. 20. Behind Josh Smith and Isaiah Barnes combining for 19 points in the first quarter, OPRF used a 27-6 run (they scored the first 13 points of the game) to stifle the Lions from the onset.
Offensively, LTHS didn’t have an answer for the length OPRF threw at them on the defensive end. They struggled to find open looks and finished 2-of-13 from the field in the first quarter.
“There were a lot of positives after the first quarter, but the hole was simply too deep to dig out of,” said LTHS coach Tom Sloan. “When OPRF makes a lot of baskets early on like they did, they’re going to be tough for anybody to handle.”
The Huskies shot 61 percent from the field and 55 percent from beyond the three-point arc the rest of the way. With a 25-point lead with four minutes left in the game, Maloney took out the rest of the starters. Barnes finished with 24 points, hitting 7 of 11 shots. Smith contributed 23 points (7-of-13), and Demetrius Dortch and Kyren Gardner each had 8 points.
LTHS’ Grant Niego did the bulk of the scoring work against the Huskies supplying 19 points, hitting just 6 of 14 shots from the field but making all seven free-throw attempts. Christian Desimone and Michael Niedermeyer had 9 points apiece.
Heading into the year, OPRF owned a conference record of 23-1 over the past two seasons. Their one loss against conference foes occurred at LTHS last year and was on some of the players’ minds heading into this game.
“Coming into the game, we were aware of what they did to us last year,” said Barnes. “We wanted to get some revenge, go undefeated in conference and let everyone know that we are the conference.”
Riding a three-game win streak, OPRF heads down to the 88th Pontiac Holiday Tournament on Dec. 26 to face Plainfield North High School at 2:30 p.m.