Xavier Sulaiman

Xavier Sulaiman

Boys Basketball | TF North ends Oak Lawn’s win streak at seven

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Oak Lawn had a seven-game winning streak snapped last week in Calumet City, but Spartans coach Jason Rhodes knows it’s still been a heck of a January for a team thriving despite the loss of its leading scorer.

Junior guard Corey Lee scored 14 points and senior guard Ayham Salah finished with 13 points and five rebounds, but Oak Lawn let an early lead slip away, then saw a late comeback attempt fall short in a 67-60 loss to T.F. North in a South Suburban Conference crossover on Jan. 26.

“We’ll be OK,” Rhodes said. “We’ve been playing good basketball. You can’t win forever. You lose and the neat thing is we play again [the following] night, so hopefully we can get the taste of this one out of our mouths and move along.”

Jack Dempsey and Eduardo Chiquito scored 10 points each for the Spartans (16-7, 7-3 SSC Red), but they could not slow down Chase Abraham, who came off the bench to score 34 points for the Meteors (16-4, 8-1 SSC Blue).

“He was on our scouting report, for sure,” Rhodes said. “He was just incredible. He was the best player on the floor.

“What are you going to do? He made some tough shots. We didn’t do a great job guarding him, either.”

Oak Lawn led 24-13 midway through the second quarter behind seven points from Salah and five from Dempsey. But North’s press started giving the Spartans problems late in the first half and the hosts closed to within 30-29 at halftime.

The Meteors outscored Oak Lawn 19-8 in the third quarter to take control.

“We got sped up late in the first half and that carried over into the third quarter,” Rhodes said. “We finally went on a run late, but too late.”

Down 63-52 with less than two minutes left, the Spartans tried to rally as Lee scored on a drive and Salah had back-to-back steals-and-scores to pull Oak Lawn within 63-58.

North sealed things at the free-throw line, where it got the job done all night.

Both teams had 16 2-point field goals, and the Spartans hit six shots from long range while the Meteors made five.

“The story of the game is free throws,” Rhodes said. “They were excellent at the free-throw line (20-for-24). We were 10-for-22.

“So, they beat us at the line.”

The Spartans bounced back to rout Corliss 84-38 at home Jan. 27. Oak Lawn erupted for 37 points in the third quarter.

Senior guard Robert Wagner led the way with a career-high 30 points. Lee scored 16 points and Salah added 11.

The Spartans are now 8-1 in January, despite losing leading scorer Xavier Sulaiman, who injured his knee in mid-December. The senior guard attempted to return Jan. 13 in a win over Lemont, but reinjured the knee and will undergo season-ending surgery.

“Our guys have really done a good job overcoming adversity,” Rhodes said. “Ayham Salah and Corey Lee have been consistent scorers. Robert Wagner has really stepped up. He’s a glue guy. He does a little bit of everything and he’s very unselfish.

“We’ve been finding ways to win.”

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