In just the second game of the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball season, senior Justin Mullins scored a career-high 38 points against Thornwood on Nov. 24 at Riverside-Brookfield High School’s Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic.
The 6-foot-5 University of Denver recruit achieved another career high of 42 against Brother Rice on Nov. 27.
Still, the Huskies lost 87-80 in overtime to finish fourth in the eight-team tournament after losing to the host Bulldogs 73-66 on Nov. 26 for first place in pool play.
“[Mullins can] take really over a game,” OPRF coach Phil Gary said.
“I love Justin and his 42 points is great but having him scoring 40 a game is hard. We’ve just got to find ways to get other guys more involved and help out on the scoring to be more balanced.”
Mullins collected 112 points in four tournament games – a 28-point scoring average – and made the 10-player all-tournament team.
Mullins scored the game’s final basket against Brother Rice. Connor Hoehne’s back-to-back baskets for the Huskies (2-2) closed the gap to 80-78 with 1:05 left but a called intentional foul began seven unanswered free throws by the Crusaders.
Mullins scored OPRF’s last two baskets of regulation for a 74-74 tie with 31 seconds left. The Crusaders played for the final shot and missed from right of the lane.
“We’re a pretty good team, once we move the ball a little bit more, play together. Defensively we are a really good team that can press and use our speed and our athleticism,” Gary said.
“We’ve got a few guys that are dynamic on offense but we’ve just got to find a balance of a couple of more guys to chip in.”
The Huskies defeated Thornwood 63-56 and University High 73-69 on Nov. 23.
Sam Lewis had 24 points and six rebounds against U-High but rolled his ankle and sat out the Thornwood victory. Lewis tweaked the injury on Nov. 27 and was sidelined with 1:42 left in regulation.
Christian Marshall provided a game-winning steal against U-High and team-high 21 points against RBHS. Other key contributions included John Vincent (10 rebounds) against U-High and Rodney Murphy (11 points) and Rai’Mon Yarbrough (8 points) versus Thornwood.
OPRF trailed RBHS 13-5 early. Marshall scored eight points in the second quarter as OPRF closed to 32-30 by halftime, and Lewis (16 points) provided a nine-point third quarter. When Murphy completed the Huskies’ 7-0 run with the first basket of the fourth quarter, they trailed 53-49 but never got closer. Mullins had 12 points.
“We just have to get timely stops,” Gary said.