Downers Grove North takes Oak Park to third overtime
Downers Grove North coach Jim Thomas said early in the season that Oak Park-River Forest was the clear favorite to win the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title.
Everyone else was playing for second place.
That still might be the case, but one thing is for sure: no team is going to make it easy for the Huskies.
Downers North nearly pulled off a huge upset Friday night before the visiting Huskies used two buzzer-beaters -- one at the end of regulation and the other in the third overtime -- to pull out a 54-52 thriller in Downers Grove.
Chase Robinson's third-chance putback just beat the buzzer for the only points of the third extra session.
"You've got to give credit to Jim Thomas and his game plan," Oak Park coach Matt Maloney said. "His players really bought into that zone and kind of confused some of our guys.
"We settled early and took some bad shots out of rhythm, didn't share the ball, kind of got suckered into taking some of the shots they wanted us to do.
"That's a credit to them. They stuck with it, they slowed the game down, which they wanted to do."
The Trojans (12-6, 3-4) twice led by 7 points in the first half before the game turned into a tense, seesaw battle after halftime. Eddie Boston's free throw pulled Downers North into a 48-48 tie with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter and a steal by Collin Reed gave the Trojans the final possession.
Following three timeouts, North star Sema'j Henderson drove past three defenders and scored a contested layup with 1.8 seconds left to give the Trojans a 50-48 lead.
The Trojans then tipped Oak Park's court-long baseball pass out of bounds with 0.5 seconds remaining. The Huskies (13-6, 7-1) inbounded underneath the basket to Anthony Roberts, whose layup just beat the clock to tie it.
"I thought we had it won when Sema'j hit that (shot), for sure," Downers North senior Connor Ilyavi said. "Every time we went to a different overtime I thought we were going to win it and I think everyone had that mentality and that's why we performed so well."
Ilyavi sank five 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 17 points, including back-to-back 3s that gave the Trojans a 47-44 lead. But he didn't get the opportunity to shoot in overtime, and after Noah May scored on the opening possession of the first overtime, Downers North didn't score again.
Oak Park tied it at 52 when Isaiah Barnes made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 34.3 seconds left. They were his only points of the game.
Henderson, who had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals, had potential game-winning 3s rim out at the end of the both the first and second overtimes.
Robinson had a game-high 20 points, while Roberts added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Charlie Hoehne 11 points and 13 rebounds for Oak Park, which took advantage of 22 Downers North turnovers.
"We had 22 turnovers," Thomas said. "You can't do that and expect to win.
"If we get a stop two times at the end of a quarter, we win the game. So you can blame it on a lot of things."
Despite the loss Ilyavi was upbeat.
"We feel like we executed all of our game plan and we thought we deserved to win that," Ilyavi said. "But when it ends like that, you've got to give it to them.
"They played really well, we played really well. It was a great game."