By Jeff Vorva
Even taking COVID-19 and its implications out of the equation, this has been a weird season for Oak Lawn’s boys basketball team.
Three of the Spartans’ first four wins of this abbreviated campaign have been decided by 27 or more points. Their losses were by 21 and 34 points.
The only game settled by single digits came on Feb. 17 — their fifth game of the season — with a 56-49 road victory at TF South.
On Friday night it was back to blowout business as usual with a 64-35 victory over Shepard in Oak Lawn in a South Suburban Conference Red game.
“It’s either feast or famine,” Spartans coach Jason Rhodes said.
Friday night’s feast didn’t get started until the second half. Oak Lawn held a 29-25 halftime lead but exploded for a 35-10 advantage over the final 16 minutes. Junior guard Nicco Reyes scored 11 points in a three-minute stretch in the third and junior forward-center Davion Lawrence added six points in the fourth quarter.
“We try to use our losses as motivation,” Lawrence said. “We try to build on our losses. If one person is down, we try to pick him up. Once one person gets going the next person gets going and we start building up.”
Five starters from last year’s 24-8 team — the second-most wins in Spartan history behind the 30-win team in 1970-71 that finished third in the state in the final year of the single-class system — graduated and new faces are taking over.
In the Shepard game, Reyes had 16 points, Lawrence 10 (plus 10 rebounds), Isiah Thompson 8, John McGowan 8 and Gavin Butler 7. All five are juniors.
“We have a lot of people who can contribute to the team,” Reyes said. “A lot of people really work hard in practice. We have a deep bench. Everyone can play and contribute to the team.”
“Our guys like playing with each other and they like sharing the basketball,” Rhodes said. “It’s fun that way. They have some things to learn defensively in terms of their mentality, but it’s a good group.”
After the weekend action, the two Oak Lawn teams in the SSC Red are on top with Richards at 3-0 and Oak Lawn at 4-1.
The Astros’ 10-point showing in the second half didn’t sit well with coach Tony Chiuccariello.
“We need to make better decisions with the basketball,” Chiuccariello said. “If a man is open ahead of you on the floor, move it. Don’t put it on the ground. When you catch in on the half court, get from one side to the other. We have a habit of forcing passes and getting out of rhythm.”
Shepard had little time to fret about its woes against Oak Lawn as the Astros took on TF South on Saturday and lost 55-35, falling to 1-4 overall and in conference play.
Senior forward Cole Hermanson led Shepard with 18 points.