By Joe Henricksen

How prep basketball is supposed to be

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By Joe Henricksen

These were regular-season games? In January? Wow.

When you see as many games and are in as many gyms as the Hoops Report is in all winter, it's easy to appreciate a night like Friday night. The Simeon-Bogan battle was an intense scrap in front of a big, energetic crowd that included a big comeback and overtime finish, while the Lyons Township-Oak Park clash was what high school basketball is supposed to be all about.

In this day of the apathetic prep sports fan and the "I'm-too-cool-teen" to attend a Friday night basketball game, which leads to many dead and empty gyms in January and February, last night was a revelation, a step back in time in LaGrange.

Coach Tom Sloan's Lyons Township basketball team is riding a wave of momentum that comes with 15 consecutive wins to start the season. But what transpired Friday night at LT was straight out of Cameron Indoor Stadium with a feel of IHSA's March Madness in the air. The atmosphere was nothing you would expect for a regular-season game, even if it was for the West Suburban Silver lead.

The stage was set early on. You begin to get the feeling something special is in the air when you're forced to park 12 blocks from the school and the line to get into the gym is 50 deep a half hour before the tip. The Lyons Township gym, one of the best in the Chicago area, was filled with just under 4,000 fans, including upwards of 800-plus students. The "Blackout" featured all the fans dressed in black and waving black towels as 1,500 towels were given to the students and fans.

The game lived up to the electric atmosphere the crowd provided. Lyons Twp. knocked off Oak Park in a down-to-the-wire 57-52 win. And LT ended it in style, with a Dan Lalonde breakaway dunk at the buzzer that sealed the win and sent the crowd into a frenzy as the students stormed the floor. Again, both the setting and atmosphere were unique and special, especially in this day and age.

The Lions, who will host a sectional this March that will include Simeon, Morgan Park and Mount Carmel among others, has chemistry, karma and some nice ingredients. First, Sloan can do some coaching. Second, the senior group, led by Lalonde, point guard Jimmy Stamas, Justin Phipps and shooter Austin Looson, has put their personal agendas aside and welcomed a talented junior group. That skilled junior group is what puts the Lions at another level. The trio of 6-2 Nick Zeisloft, 6-5 Nick Burt and 6-3 Spencer Mahoney have all come up big at different times this season (the three combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds Friday night), while 6-4 Eric Powers is another junior rounding back into form after missing seven weeks with an injury.

Bogan continues to impress
Chalk up another impressive win for Bogan this season, which now includes victories over Rock Island, West Aurora, Morgan Park, Vocational and now Simeon. The Bengals, who overcame a 13-point 4th quarter deficit to beat Simeon in overtime Friday night, improved to 18-6 overall and remain in the hunt in the state's toughest conference -- the Chicago Public League's Red-South. Coach Arthur Goodwin's club has a toughness about them that starts with senior Rico Richardson and the active Darius Gholston.

Richardson, who has had plenty of superlatives thrown his way, sets the tone. The Hoops Report doesn't project the 5-9 point guard to be the type of college prospect many others have him projected to be, but he's one heck of a high school lead guard. The Kansas transplant is calm, leads, is under control and obviously finds ways to help his team win, but he's limited when projecting him out as a college player. When the updated Class of 2010 player rankings come out Richardson will be in the 20-25 range.

But the best player on the floor was a freshman. Simeon's Jabari Parker is so special and a pleasure to watch. He will make freshmen mistakes with a turnover or missing a defensive assignment that will subside with more experience, but the 6-5 do-it-all was brilliant in the first half of play when Simeon opened up a double-digit lead. Parker showcased his feathery touch and total skill package throughout the first two quarters when he scored 14 of his game-high 16 points. Unfortunately we didn't see a lot of Parker in the second half or down the stretch as he was on the bench. And those that question if Parker is a superior enough athlete? His baseline dunk that put fans in a tizzy, in which he switched hands and dunked lefthanded, would quiet that nitpicky group.

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I'm an LT student and was lucky enough to attend the Blackout game Friday night. It was a night I will never forget. It was the greatest sporting event I have ever been to, and probably will always be.

Thanks for the kudos for the LT environment. The Student section and their student and advisors really came up big. . The game Friday night was a throw back.. I go back to the late 70's era at St Joes and Fridays game @ LT does show what High School basketball can be. You are right about chemistry on the team, the seniors [also including Jordan Hester and Paul Campion} have melded well with the 12 or so Juniors who joined the team from an undefeated Sophomore season last year, with alot of success.

In this era of personal spotlights and personal glory in High school sports, especially basketball..its refreshing to watch the game played by a TEAM, and the emphasis on team play. This is not saying that watching a truly talented basketball player take over a game isn't impressive, but when a team succeeds in a team sport then it is somewhat of a throwback to a different time. The LT community has embraced the team as was evidenced by the number of younger families and kids at the game. Nice to see.

Good luck to LT the rest of the way, hopefully things will continue as they have


Glad someone was there to really express to others what it was like, what the atmosphere was like, because it should have been covered more or better. Thanks Hoops Report!

Great to see someone appreciate all that Lyons Twp. put into this terrific night of basketball. Thanks for coming out and recognizing this special night. Love reading your Hoops Report.

Very insightful comments about LT's Blackout and how much fun a community can have coming together at events such as this. What a positive experience! Thanks for noticing ... and, by the way, it's Austin Lusson (not Looson) who plays for the great Lyons Township High School TEAM, so great because they are an outstanding group of strong individual players who play as a team.

Just catching this now, I know it's been a few weeks. I'm one of five student section leaders for this year's LT student section, and I just wanted to thank you for the recognition. A lot went into this night and it ended up being unforgettable. We like to think we bring the same level of intensity/home court advantage every weekend (only, with fewer students of course), so definitely check us out in the future. We appreciate the love.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on January 23, 2010 1:06 PM.

The Decade of Illinois Prep Basketball was the previous entry in this blog.

Q & A time for teams at Young Shootout is the next entry in this blog.

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