HINSDALE – Rivalries are often built on familiarity between the two sides. Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township are no exception in boys basketball.
Both teams are led by talented juniors, Hinsdale Central’s Matt Rafferty and LT’s Harrison Niego, and both players know each other very well since they are AAU teammates on the Chicago LockDown.
The offseason teammates will be foes when the Red Devils host the Lions at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I think it will be fun,” Rafferty said of playing against Niego and LT. “It’s always fun to play against your buddies and battle against them. I’m excited to play against him.”
While Niego, a guard, and Rafferty, a forward, won’t match up against each other very often, both are the top players on their respective teams. Both players have Division I offers on the table.
“I think it would be a little tougher if we were going to have to guard each other,” Rafferty said.
LockDown is run by Niego’s father Joe, who was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1987, and coached by St. Viator varsity coach Mike Howland. The program was started in 2011 and has started to gain notoriety, thanks in part to Harrison Niego and Rafferty, who are both featured on the team’s website.
“We’ve been together since eighth grade. We’ve played the past couple summers together and we’ve had great success,” Harrison Niego said. “It’s been a lot of fun with those guys. A bunch of good players that are doing well this year.”
The Lions and Red Devils enter Friday’s game in Hinsdale with matching 3-1 records in the West Suburban Silver.
While Rafferty said they haven’t talked much about playing each other – not yet at least – bragging rights that will last through the summer are on the line.
“I don’t like to lose to those guys,” Niego said. “It will always get brought up once or twice in the summer. Whoever wins or loses, we’ll get at each other a little bit. It’s all fun. I love playing against those guys, and those guys are real good players.”
The Red Devils split a pair of games last weekend. They kept pace in the WSS race with a 64-53 win against Proviso West on Jan. 10 before giving highly regarded St. Viator a battle in an 82-73 loss Jan. 11.
While a win against the Lions would be nice in terms of bragging rights for Rafferty and the Red Devils, a victory would be more important in terms of keeping up with York in the WSS and building toward postseason success. Rafferty has a good idea of what it will take to win now and in the postseason.
“It all starts at the defensive end,” Rafferty said. “If we play solid defense, get stops and guard, we’ll be fine.”