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Boys Basketball: Highs and lows for Oak Lawn

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

During a week that Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes knew would present a huge challenge for his team, the Spartans started with a big win over a top South Suburban Conference contender.

Then the league’s greatest perennial power provided proof that Oak Lawn still has a lot of work to do.

After beating Oak Forest 60-57 on Jan. 4, the Spartans could not keep up with Hillcrest three days later, suffering a 67-32 defeat on the road in Country Club Hills.

The Spartans (11-4, 3-1 South Suburban Red) also fell 54-41 to Normal on Jan. 8 at the Christie Clinic Shootout in downstate St. Joseph.

“This was always going to be the toughest week of the year in my opinion, given our schedule,” Rhodes said. “Oak Forest is very good, Hillcrest is always very good and tough — and playing them on the road, no less. Then a very good Normal team. We knew it was going to be tough.”

In the win over Oak Forest, Ayham Salah led the way with 16 points. John McGowan added 13 points and Davion Lawrence scored 10.

“It was great for us, we played a really good second half, probably the best second half of the season against Oak Forest to pull that one out,” Rhodes said. “We shot the ball fairly well.

“Davion played really, really well against (Oak Forest star forward Robbie) Avila on both ends of the floor. He kind of took it at him offensively and scored on him several times inside and then did a pretty good job keeping him out of the paint on the defensive end.”

Rhodes also credited Isaiah Thompson for his defense against Oak Forest point guard Fred Robinson.

“Robbie hit five 3-pointers and had 27 points and Fred only had 12 points,” Rhodes said. “When I scouted Oak Forest against Richards, Robbie had 39 points and Fred had 20. I didn’t think we could beat them if they went off like that. I was really happy with our defensive effort, especially in the second half. Against those two guys especially.”

The Spartans could not, however, contain Hillcrest in a similar fashion.

Oak Lawn led 5-3 early before the Hawks went on an absurd 31-0 run, spanning the final 5:36 of the first quarter and first 6:44 seconds of the second quarter.

“We had just far too many empty possessions to compete,” Rhodes said. “They pound the glass a lot and their size hurt us a lost.  Then there were some head-scratching passes that we threw.  They would turn the ball over and we would give it right back.

“I just told our guys that was not Oak Lawn basketball and we have to flush that one.”

Corey Lee scored nine points off the bench to lead the Spartans. McGowan scored six points, Robert Wagner had five and Lawrence had four points and six rebounds.

Rhodes was pleased with the Spartans’ reserves, led by Lee and Wagner.

“I thought the silver lining was our second group came in, played hard and did some good stuff,” he said. “I was really happy with their effort.”

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