ADDISON – It would be understandable if members of Lyons Township’s boys basketball team cringe when they think of York.
The Lions fell to the Dukes 69-57 Friday night at Addison Trail as York won its second straight regional title and eliminated LT from the playoffs for the second straight year.
It was York’s fourth win over the Lions this season. The Dukes have seven wins over LT in the past two years and have won nine in a row against their conference rivals.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “York is obviously very good.
“We had a couple of good looks that didn’t fall. They made some free throws. York did what they needed to do to finish it off.”
LT (17-11) led 23-19 in the second quarter, but the Dukes went on an 11-1 run from that point and led the rest of the game. York led by as many as nine points before LT got back within 58-57 with 3:05 left in the game. Harrison Niego attempted a go-ahead jump shot soon after, but it didn’t go and the Lions never scored again.
Niego, who won the regional semifinal game for the Lions against Hoffman Estates by driving the floor in 5.6 seconds and scoring a buzzer-beating layup off a made free throw by the Hawks, finished with a game-high 26 points. Jim Cullen also added 10 points.
The Lions could be wondering what if regarding the absence of senior forward Chris Hester, who suffered up a season-ending injury at York’s holiday tournament. At the time of the injury, Hester was the team’s second-leading scorer. LT still managed to go 9-8 without Hester.
“It shows that we had some depth,” Sloan said. “Jaquan Phipps stepped in and tried to fill the shoes that Chris had and did a really admirable job.”
Phipps and Niego, a guard with multiple Division I offers already, will both be a key part of next year’s team as seniors. The Lions will need to replace a senior class that includes Matt Mrazek, Cullen, Sam Cybulski and Omarr Gilbert among its the top contributors.
“We’re going to miss all our seniors,” Sloan said. “In the offseason we wanted to make sure that the guys knew that we needed to get tougher as far as physically, strength wise, but also just mentally on the defensive side of the floor. We’re not as big as other teams so we had to have a tougher mentality and I feel like the guys worked really hard in the offseason to do that.
“That was probably the most memorable part was to see how far the group came since the end of last season.”