Wild ride for up and down Huskies

Gary sinks three at buzzer, leads team to OT victory

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By CAM WIGTON

The Oak Park and River Forest boys basketball team continued its roller coaster season this past weekend, mounting an impressive overtime victory over Lyons Township (LT) on Friday only to narrowly fall to Glenbard West on Saturday.

The Huskies struggled against a very tall and physical Glenbard West squad Saturday afternoon in Oak Park, losing 57-48. The Huskies (12-6 Overall, 5-3 West Suburban Silver Conference) simply could not execute on offense, which proved to be their downfall, according to OPRF coach Al Allen.

"I really give all the credit to Glenbard because they have won 12 out of the last 13 and they are on top of their game," he said. "We just couldn't score against them, which has been a problem for us all year."

Jason Simmons led the Huskies with 13 points, nine of which came in the first half, but the senior did not score in the all-important fourth frame. In fact, the Huskies made just three field goals in the fourth quarter which resulted in the Hilltoppers outscoring them 30-19. The loss puts OPRF in a very difficult spot, with the Huskies having to win their last four conference games to gain the all-important fourth seed in the Farragut Sectional.

"The loss against Glenbard really puts us in a bad situation," Allen said. "We have now three losses in the league, so we now need to defeat York and then we have Proviso West waiting for us. Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us."

Against Lyons, however, it was a very different story for the Huskies. Despite trailing the Lions 26-12 at the half and scoring just two points in the second quarter, OPRF mounted a comeback of epic proportions, winning 50-45 in overtime. With just 8.1 seconds remaining in regulation and Lyons up 42-39, the Huskies' outlook seemed bleak, but OPRF hurriedly advanced the ball up court, only to have junior guard Phil Gary somehow find an opening behind the three-point arc, draining his shot as the buzzer sounded. One referee, however, signaled that Gary's foot was on the line, thereby counting as a two-point shot and giving the victory to LT. After some very tense deliberation between the referees, however, the shot was ruled a three and both teams readied themselves for the four-minute overtime.

"I knew the shot was a three when I took it," Gary said. "It felt good right when I let it go and I knew my feet were behind the line. It feels really good to get the win today because we all worked hard as a team to make it happen."

In overtime, LT was clearly reeling from the Huskies' unbelievable comeback. Despite an early three from Grant Porter that gave his team a brief one-point lead, the Lions could not stave off OPRF's onslaught. One big reason behind the win was that Gary continued his clutch shooting in overtime, making all four of his free throws. Jason Pontone and Lamont Sanders both added field goals to ensure the win. Sanders, who did not score in the first half, scored a team-high 16 points in the second half.

"In the first half, I really couldn't get anything going," Sanders said. "But, in the second half I started to get some confidence and that really helped. I really think we won this game because me and my teammates really didn't want to lose."

Despite the win, Allen admits that his team needs to work on many aspects of its game if the Huskies hope to advance in the State tournament. One step in that direction is the potential return of sophomore point guard Dan Barnes. Barnes will get an X-Ray this week to find out if he will be ready to play after suffering a broken hand earlier in the season.

"Even though we got the win, we still only scored 50 points, which isn't nearly enough," Allen said. "You cannot do that night in, night out, and expect to win on a consistent basis. We are trying to play a varsity schedule with three sophomores and two juniors and me and my coaching staff have to remember that they are still learning. As for the next four games, we are going to have to find a way to win and hopefully Barnes will be ready. We are going to take it one game at a time and go from there."

The Huskies travel to York on Friday (7:30 p.m.).

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