Glenbard West had to contend with Oak Park-River Forest's considerable size advantage for much of Friday night's West Suburban Silver showdown.
That size proved to be the difference during the Hilltoppers' 55-48 loss to the Huskies, the first-place team in the division coming into the game.
Oak Park-River Forest's zone defense, led by 6-foot-8 center Thomas Ross, 6-foot-7 forward Tacourrus Mattox and 6-foot-4 guard Alex Gustafson, bothered the Glenbard West offense most of the night, keeping the Huskies out of the lane for much of the game.
"It wasn't so much the scheme as it was (Oak Park-River Forest's) size," Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder said. "We had a hard time moving the ball against their zone because of their length, especially when they had the two big kids in there at the same time. We couldn't move the ball quick enough through the gaps to attack."
The Hilltoppers (9-5, 2-2) did welcome back senior guard Jeff Levesque, who had been out the previous 13 games with a stress fracture. He finished with six points on the night.
"I was real sore and am still a little rusty," Levesque said. "It was very exciting to get out there. I was a little rusty in this game, but hopefully the next game will be better."
Glenbard West's last lead of the night came early in the second quarter when Corey Davis' drive and lay-in put the Hilltoppers up 9-8.
The Huskies tried to put some distance between themselves and their opponent, applying a full-court press midway through the second quarter that forced three straight Hilltoppers turnovers, which resulted in six points and a 16-9 lead.
Keith Hayes' jumper with 1:55 to go in the first half cut the Huskies' lead to two at 18-16, but Glenbard West got no closer the rest of the way.
Erick Locke scored 8 of Oak Park-River Forest's 15 third-quarter points, all on drives through the lane, while in the process giving his team some breathing room. His layup with 20 seconds left put the Huskies up 38-24 heading into the fourth quarter, their largest lead of the night.
A pair of free throws by Davis at the 4:55 mark trimmed the Huskies' lead to 42-35.
The Hilltoppers also closed the gap to six twice in the final minute. Levesque cut the deficit to 49-43 on a driving layup that resulted in a foul and subsequent free throw.
Nathan Marcus' basket with 33.1 seconds left made the score 51-45.
"I was pleased with everyone's effort," Hoder said. "I knew we'd be prepared for what they were going to do. It was just a question of if we could execute at the speed of the game and against their size."