Written by Aaron FitzPatrick and Tim Cronin
Photos by Aaron FitzPatrick
Inside, 6-foot-10 Michael Drynan of Evergreen Park made life miserable for Argo in a 27-point performance to help the Mustangs clinch its first conference title since 1994
The first part was done.
Evergreen Park disposed of the host Argo Argonauts, 75-49, Friday night in Summit and the win assured the Mustangs of at least a share of their first conference title since 1994 and only third in school history. Michael Drynan, a 6-foot-10 senior, came up big with 27 points.
The second park came when Mustangs coach Pat Flannigan took out his phone and scrolled through his texts.
“Oak Lawn beat Richards,” he said after looking at his phone with a satisfied smile on his face after finding out the Bulldogs were upset 66-64.
Now there was no sharing anything.
The Mustangs were sole possessors of the South Suburban Red conference championship with an 8-5 mark. It was their third boys basketball title in school history. Richards, which won 10 of the last 11 SSC Red titles was second at 7-6.
“It’s been a special season.” Flannigan said.
Friday night’s game followed the pattern of the 2016-17 season for the Mustangs to this point; getting off to a slow start before putting everything together.
Despite a 1-24 record coming into the game, the Argonauts gave the Mustangs everything they had in front of a lively Senior Night crowd at Swanson Gymnasium. Argo led Evergreen Park in the first period and trailed by less than double digits at halftime before the Mustangs caught fire and pulled away in the second half.
The Mustangs connected on eight three-pointers, including four from senior swingman Kyree Hannah (16 points). Hannah helped the Mustangs pull away from the pesky Argonauts with three bombs in third period.
“I’m happy that we can put something on a banner now,” said Hannah. “We knew at the beginning of the season that the chemistry was clicking. We just knew we were going to have a good season.”
While Hannah was dazzling outside, Drynan was damaging inside.
“We told him ‘You’re special,’ ’’ Flannigan said. “We said ‘Start believing and start being special.’ And tonight he was special.”
Drynan wasn’t just special, he was almost perfect. He made his first eight shots en route to a 27-point performance on 12 of 14 shooting.
“It feels pretty good,” said Drynan after the game about winning a conference title in his senior year.
As for the rest of the season, the Mustangs still feel that there’s more to accomplish. The Mustangs 17-9 overall) opened play Monday in their own Class 3A Regional and picked up the 13th seed. Seeding-wise, they were in line to play No. 1 Morgan Park on Wednesday.
“It’s been a great group of kids to work with and we don’t think we’re done,” said Flannigan. “We’ve got a tough seed. We’re in an all-city sectional and we don’t get a lot of respect so we’ve got to earn it. If we can knock out Morgan Park it gets easier.”
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Adem Osmani came up with a game-winning tip-in for Oak Lawn in a stunning win over Richards.
The winning play didn't go as planned. Turnovers almost took them out of the game. The opponent's parade to the free-throw line was perfect.
Yet, Oak Lawn still beat Richards on the Bulldogs' home court on Friday night, depriving the hosts of an 11th South Suburban Red title in the last dozen years.
The Spartans' 66-64 victory came about through the offensive tandem of seniors Rashad Johnson and Adem Osmani – and Adem's younger brother, freshman Sami – plus a defensive effort that held Richards to one field goal in the final quarter.
To spring the surprise was not only immensely satisfying for Oak Lawn (10-17, 6-8), it squelched the chance for a share of the conference crown Richards (12-14, 7-6) had coming in. That went to Evergreen Park (17-9, 8-5) via its 74-49 thrashing of Argo, the first gonfalon for the Mustangs since 1994.
"It's a dream come true since my freshman year," said Johnson, who led all hands with 30 points and added six rebounds and a trio of steals. "It feels good. Me and my teammates, we kept our heads in the game the whole day.
"I've been working on my attitude. I knew it was going to be a close game. I knew what I've done with my records and stuff. I wasn't going to let my team down. I promised them we weren't coming out with a loss."
That bold pronouncement was both dramatic and accurate.
"It's always special to beat Richards, and really special to beat them on their home floor," Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes said. "I kind of feel like we stole it a little bit. But we made plays."
The Bulldogs were quick-handed, forcing 15 turnovers, and were perfect from the line, making all 18 free-throws, with 10 from Jaylan Catledge (28 points, six rebounds). But on this night, perfection would not be enough.
"We knew what they had," Richards coach Chris Passafiume said. "We came back pretty tough. A couple plays didn't bounce our way, just basketball plays. We tried to contain Johnson as best we could but couldn't give him an inch.
"No title, but hopefully we can learn from that."
The game was won on Adem Osmani's tip rebound of Johnson's missed shot on a drive to the basket with 1.6 seconds remaining. It wasn't supposed to happen that way.
"For him to get that last tip was huge," Rhodes said. "They took away both the first and second options. Off the inbounds, Adam Stallworth was intelligent to get it back to our best player (Johnson). That's the thing with Rashad. When he attacks, there's so much attention paid to him, we get a lot of second-chance opportunities."
Oak Lawn had made up a four-point deficit with 1:18 to play, first on Johnson's conventional three-point play and a three-pointer by Sami Osmani that created a 64-62 lead. A pair of Catledge free-throws with 12.4 seconds left created the game's fourth tie.
Oak Lawn had controlled the first 14 minutes, building a 31-21 lead, but Richards' 11-0 run brought the hosts a 32-31 lead at the intermission. That momentum continued into the third quarter. Richards built an eight-point lead on Nate Stewart jumper with 1:32 left in the third, but Oak Lawn came back, tying the game at 54 via Johnson's second straight three-pointer early in the fourth.