OPRF basketball team finds its footing

Josh Hedrich, Staffer

Despite struggles in the season, the Huskies boys basketball team bounced back and found success in conference play. The team is 5-1 against the conference, which puts them in second place.

Head Coach Matt Maloney credits the recent success to what he calls the “Three E’s:” energy, effort, and execution.

“We are getting better at paying attention to detail. Our effort and our energy has picked up, it’s been more consistent,” says Maloney. “We are still working to improve our execution. Once we get those three-E’s together, we think we will have a nice ending to the year.”

Jan. 10, the team opened their home schedule after playing nearly half their season on the road, against a tough Glenbard West squad who were 12-1 at the time.

“We were finally happy to be at home after being on the road for a while; it felt comfortable,” said junior guard Josh Smith.

Maloney was also glad to be back home, impressed by the crowd at the game. “It was an energetic crowd from both our student body and the adults in the community,” said Maloney. “I think our players felt that love, and that definitely inspired them. We are hoping we get that moving forward because we need the sixth-man factor at home.”

The crowd’s excitement seemed to boost the team’s energy. After a shaky start, the Huskies were down seven points at the half. In the locker room Maloney told his players to win, they would have to sharpen up defensively.

His message seemed to work. The Huskies managed to hold their rival Hilltoppers to only 24 points in the second half.

With about three minutes left in the game, OPRF had a comfortable nine point lead. However, due to a few sloppy plays, with five seconds left to play Glenbard only trailed by two points and had a chance to win the game. On the final possession, Glenbard West forward Braden Huff got an open look from beyond the arch, but fired up a brick as time expired: solidifying the 64-62 win for OPRF.

After the final buzzer, Smith seemed surprised at the outcome.

“I saw how open he was,” he said. “We got lucky when he missed.”

Maloney wasn’t happy with the way his team finished the game.

“Our execution and attention to detail has got to be there for 32 minutes, especially with a lead at the end of the game.”

Isaiah Barnes, who led the Huskies in scoring with 26 points, agreed with Maloney: the game was too close. “It was a nice win for us,” said Barnes. “It was closer than it should have been but we pulled it out.”

As for his personal success, the 6-foot-6 Barnes, who holds Division-1 offers from colleges such as Illinois and Loyola-Chicago, says the key to staying hot is “playing hard and letting the game come to me.”

While the win against Glenbard West was good motivation, the team senior forward Justin Cross, when he hurt his elbow in the second quarter.

Maloney tried to take a positive approach when it came to the injury, “When we get healthy, I think all of this experience for some of our young guys will be paying major dividends.” Cross is expected to make his return some time in February.

Since the Glenbard West game the team has gone 2-1 with a loss against York and wins over Lincoln-Way East and Downers Grove North.