LA GRANGE – Friday’s boys basketball game against Hinsdale Central had a little bit of everything for Lyons Township.
It had a big crowd, a big game with a lot on the line and it even had a court-rushing – after the third quarter. One thing that had to be decided later, however, was the West Suburban Silver title.
LT beat the Red Devils 51-38 to pull two games ahead with two left in conference play. A day later the Lions wrapped up the conference title by beating Proviso West 52-41. It is LT’s first conference title in boys basketball since the 2010-11 season.
The conference title is big, but the Hinsdale Central game is one that will live long in the memories of the players involved. The packed crowd urged on the Lions to a wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s incredible,” senior Harrison Niego said. “You go to college and rarely do you get that [atmosphere] in a college environment. To have it here and the students at LT are awesome. It’s good that Hinsdale has support, too. We really showed out today and you couldn’t hear anything.
“The freshmen game was filled up. That’s insane.”
Danny O’Malley scored LT’s first eight points to help the Lions get out to a 13-2 lead. The Lions led 30-15 early in the third quarter, their biggest lead of the game, before the Red Devils went on an 11-0 run to get back in the game.
Central got as close as 32-29, but Niego scored the next five points and the Red Devils didn’t get any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Lions are hoping the experience gained from the two games against the Red Devils with full crowds and plenty of noise will help come playoff time.
“This game is definitely a playoff atmosphere,” O’Malley said. “It’s going to prepare us for the future. When a game comes around like this again we’re going to be prepared because of these games.”
The Lions had four players score in double figures. Harrison Niego led with 15 points. Connor Niego and Jaquan Phipps had 11 points each, and O’Malley finished with 10.
“For the most part the whole game we did a good job sharing the ball, finding the open guy,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “In high school you don’t get to play in too many games that have an atmosphere like that. The kids played well in the circumstances.”
One extra twist during the game was that LT senior Brendan Swinehart made a half-court shot to win a new car after the third quarter. The LT student section poured onto the court to celebrate with him while the two teams huddled during the timeout. They quickly cleared for the fourth quarter to begin. When the game ended, the students rushed the court a second time.