The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team had a good showing at the 90th Annual Pontiac Holiday Tournament held Dec. 28-30. With a field featuring many of Illinois’ top programs, the Huskies went 3-1 and placed fifth.
“I tell our team that this is our first full year together and there are going to be ups and downs,” coach Phil Gary said. “But so far, I like where we are. We’re growing every day. [Fifth] is not the trophy we wanted, but we showed some pride and grit.”
OPRF (7-4) opened the tournament with an 81-55 rout of Warren Township High School. Justin Mullins was dominant against the Blue Devils with 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. Three other Huskies scored in double-figures, including Sam Lewis (13 points, 5 rebounds), Keaghan Elmiger (11) and Christian Marshall (10).
But the next day, OPRF was pounded by eventual tournament champion, Simeon, as the Wolverines rolled to a 79-45 quarterfinal victory.
“We gave [Simeon] momentum by turning the ball over and giving them easy baskets,” Gary said. “We talk about valuing the basketball and that was one of our main goals, but we didn’t do a good job. Simeon has a lot of horsepower with their bigs and their fast guards, and a lot of our turnovers led to easy twos and dunks. That got them going and it hurt us.”
Lewis was the Huskies’ top scorer against Simeon with 14 points, but no other OPRF player reached double digits.
On the tournament’s final day, OPRF notched a pair of victories in the consolation bracket. The Huskies held off West Aurora 60-58 in the morning, then returned in the evening to edge Joliet West 46-44.
Against the Blackhawks, Mullins led the Huskies with 19 points and five rebounds. Against the Tigers, Lewis (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Mullins (a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds) had good all-around efforts.
“I thought we bounced back real well. We could’ve mailed it in mentally and said we’re ready to go home,” said Gary. “But we fought and battled.”
Mullins was named to the all-tournament first team, while Lewis got honorable mention.
“Sam is coming along. He’s figuring out when to score and when to look for his teammates,” Gary said. “He’s very talented. And Justin being named to the first team at Pontiac, that’s pretty hard to do. He had a really good showing and was everywhere.”
As the calendar turns to 2022, OPRF has several key upcoming games in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
Glenbard West is the state’s top-ranked team and Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township are putting together good seasons as well, and the Huskies will face all three in short order.
“It’s going to be a tough conference. There are several teams that don’t get credit,” he said.
OPRF’s next three scheduled games are at Lyons Township on Jan. 7, at Hinsdale Central on Jan. 11 and at home versus Glenbard West on Jan. 14.