Photo by Jeff Vorva
Oak Lawn senior Dan Lillard reaches out for the ball Friday night against Richards. The Spartans are within reach of winning their first conference title since 1983.
There it is, on the East wall of the Oak Lawn gym for all to see.
There are bunch of boxes indicating all of the conference titles Oak Lawn athletic teams have won.
In the boys basketball box, it reads “1967 1971 1979 1983.”
The Spartans haven’t won a league title since guys such as Randy Stanick and Tom Baxa were helping the team to a SICA West title. They have never won a South Suburban Red title, as that conference was established in 2006.
It’s been a long dry spell.
“We’re very aware of that,” Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes said.
The Spartans put themselves in a good position to end that after beating crosstown rival Richards, 57-52, in a home game Friday night. Heading into this week’s action, Shepard and Richards are on the top of the hill with 5-3 marks, while Oak Lawn is 4-3.
Senior Adem Osmani had 15 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to help with the victory. He added 10 rebounds and five assists.
He also knows about the conference title drought and wants that to end.
“That’s been the goal since I got here,” he said. “We’re in a good position now.’’
Last year, Oak Lawn broke a long losing skid to Richards with a 66-64 victory thanks in part to Osmani’s tip-in with 1.6 seconds left at Richards to close the regular season. It denied the Bulldogs their 11th league title in 12 years and allowed Evergreen Park to win its first conference crown since 1994.
After Friday’s game, some Oak Lawn fans stormed the court for a celebration.
Which game was more exciting?
“Honestly, both,” Osmani said. “I’m just glad we could beat them two years in a row. Oak Lawn has not had a great record against Richards and I wanted to end that. I want us to be the best team in Oak Lawn.
“We knew Richards was good and it was going to be close. But when you get to the fourth quarter, it’s winning time.’’
“This year’s game was more important,” Rhodes added.
Sophomore Sami Osmani added 13 points for Oak Lawn, which is 12-6 overall. Trevon Jones had 22 points and sophomore Paul Zilinskas added 11 for Richards (7-11 overall).
The Spartans were scheduled to visit Bremen in its final crossover game against SSC Blue foes on Tuesday and hosts Evergreen Park on Friday. The remaining conference schedule finds the Spartans hosting Shepard Feb. 9, hosting Reavis Feb. 13, visiting Eisenhower Feb. 16 and visiting Argo Feb. 23.
Richards’s remaining conference schedule finds the Bulldogs hosting Eisenhower on Friday, visiting Argo Feb. 2, visiting Evergreen Park Feb. 13, visiting Shepard Feb. 16 and hosting Reavis Feb. 23.
Shepard is also going to have a say in all of this and the Astros host Argo Friday night, visit Evergreen Park on Feb. 2, visit Oak Lawn Feb. 9, host Richards Feb. 16 and visit Eisenhower Feb. 23.