Spartans sneak past Reavis in ‘Relay for Life’ game
In recognition of its annual “Relay For Life” fund-raising event, Oak Lawn made purple the dominant color in its gymnasium Friday night.
Then the basketball-playing Spartans proceeded to leave visiting Reavis in a blue funk.
With an enthusiastic home crowd urging it on, Oak Lawn went toe-to-toe with the Rams from beginning to end before finally giving its guests the boot. Joe Cosenza, recently inserted into the Spartans’ starting lineup, stepped forward with a huge defensive play at the 15-second mark to tilt momentum his team’s way.
Cosenza poked the ball loose from a Reavis player while the Rams were holding it for a last shot with the score tied. That same player actually retrieved the ball in the backcourt, but Reavis was charged with an over-and-back violation and forced to surrender it.
Ibrahim Samra inched Oak Lawn ahead with a pair of free throws, then the Spartans called on their defense one more time. The Rams never got a clean look at the basket and simply heaved a buzzer-beating shot, which didn’t come close to falling.
As a result, Oak Lawn bagged a hard-fought 48-46 South Suburban Conference Red triumph.
“I felt the two teams were evenly matched,” Spartans coach Jason Rhodes said. “They’ve got a gaudy record, but I felt we’d played better competition outside the conference.”
Something else was working in Oak Lawn’s favor, too, according to Rhodes.
“We’re playing well at home,” he said. “We’ve got a new fan section, and they’re loud and totally into the game. It’s about time we got something at Oak Lawn from that standpoint.
“This is the best environment we’ve had in our three years here, and we had a pretty good team in our first year. [The strong support] enhances our performance.”
The Spartans’ 41 percent shooting was nothing spectacular, but it still bettered Reavis’ effort by three points. And Rhodes definitely liked his club’s scoring balance.
Interestingly, the guy with the hottest hand of late — guard David Stacy — only contributed four points on this occasion. However, four of his teammates netted between eight and 11, a quartet led by Josh Prince, who provided a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Half of his boards were snared off the offensive glass.
“He played like a man in the fourth quarter,” Rhodes said of Prince.
Also chipping in for Oak Lawn (7-12, 3-7) were Leo Nelson (10 points), Mitch Swatek (nine points, four assists) and Cosenza (eight points, including two 3-point buckets).
Oak Lawn 38
The Argonauts have been on a roll lately — included among their recent wins was a high-scoring one over SSC Red-leading Richards — but the Spartans were able to cool them off a bit last Tuesday in Summit.
Deep into the fourth quarter, that meant Argo had generated just 38 points, which placed it in a deadlock with Oak Lawn. Nelson’s 3-pointer and Swatek’s three-point play had helped the Spartans establish a slim edge right before that, but the Argonauts’ Tyler Mitchell countered with a hoop.
And after Prince created the 38-all tie with a free throw, Oak Lawn suddenly went dry. With three consecutive Mitchell jumpers serving as fuel, Argo reeled off the contest’s final 10 points to post a double-figure victory.
“That was a point of emphasis,” Rhodes said, referring to having his defenders closely guard Mitchell. “But we saw [later] on film we had guys running away from him.”
Mitchell collected 14 of his game-high 20 points after halftime, but that was only part of the Spartans’ problem. Also hampering them was their own poor shooting — 26 percent over the course of the evening — and a lack of offensive balance.
Only five Oak Lawn players tallied, and just Nelson (14 points) and Stacy (11 points, seven rebounds) reached double digits. The visitors received a mere three points from their bench people.
“We just had a tough time scoring inside,” Rhodes said. “We fed the post early and often, but we missed a lot of shots in the paint. We did hit five 3s, but we had a lot of [other] open 3s off penetration and ball movement [that we missed].
“We were down six or eight points most of the night and we did not play with very much of an [emotional] edge, which was unfortunate because you need that on the road.”
Despite Mitchell’s late-game heroics, the Spartans’ overall defensive performance was decent as the Argonauts clicked on only 41 percent of their field-goal attempts. The hosts out-rebounded Oak Lawn 31-26, and both squads finished with a respectable nine turnovers.
The Spartans faced Fenton in a nonconference road game this past Tuesday and travel to Blue Island on Friday to tangle with Eisenhower in an SSC Red matchup.
Oak Lawn 7 9 9 13 - 38
Argo 12 10 11 15 - 48
Oak Lawn Scoring: Nelson 14, Stacy 11, Prince 5, Swatek 5, Schutt 3. Rebounds: Stacy 7, Prince 6. Assists: Samra 3.
Reavis 11 12 13 10 - 46
Oak Lawn 13 13 12 10 - 48
Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 11, Nelson 10, Swatek 9, Cosenza 8, Samra 4, Stacy 4, Alvarado 2. Rebounds: Prince 10. Assists: Swatek 4.