HEADLINE: OT not OK for Spartans
SUBHEAD: Late flurry in fourth quarter goes for naught
By Ken Karrson
Oak Lawn learned last Tuesday that momentum can only take a team so far.
What the Spartans needed was for it to carry over an additional four minutes. By hitting visiting Argo with a late flurry in the fourth quarter, Oak Lawn expunged all of a 12-point deficit in the span of just 3 ½ minutes.
But with all the energy seemingly pointing in their direction, the Spartans couldn’t take advantage in overtime. They definitely came close -- when Josh Prince tallied with 8.1 seconds remaining in the extra session, Oak Lawn was up by a point – but the Argonauts managed to have the final say.
First, they got two additional seconds put back on the clock, an act Spartans coach Jason Rhodes didn’t quite comprehend. Then Argo avoided what Rhodes believed should have been a double-dribble call, rebounded its own missed shot and drew a foul with .3 seconds left. Two free throws later Oak Lawn was on the wrong end of a 58-57 final in the South Suburban Conference Red matchup.
“It was frustrating,” Rhodes said of the outcome. “That was tough, especially after [losing] the Reavis game [by three points] on [the previous] Friday. But we should have gathered in the rebound.”
Actually, there were several things Rhodes would have preferred being different. He didn’t like the ill-advised 3-pointer the Spartans (9-14, 3-8) took while holding a two-point lead in OT and he especially regretted a huge differential in fouls -- Oak Lawn was assessed 14 of them in the second half while Argo did not get charged with any.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Rhodes said. “Were we fouling? Yes, but were they a perfect defensive team?
“It seems like every questionable call went against us -- at home. I’m at a loss to explain it.”
In the early going everything came up roses for the Spartans, who jumped out to a 17-9 edge in the opening period. As Rhodes explained, it “was just a half-court game and we were executing well.”
The scenario changed, though, once the Argonauts began employing a 2-2-1 zone defense. With standout Marcus Fry fueling its offense with 11 points, Argo outscored Oak Lawn 21-8 in the second stanza to seize control.
The lead was six after three quarters and got extended to 12 midway through the final stanza before the Spartans made a push. Three-pointers by Jimmy Wiltzius and Rashad Johnson on consecutive possessions quickly sliced the margin in half, then Joe Cosenza’s steal set up another bucket.
The Argonauts were clinging to a three-point advantage in the last 30 seconds with two fouls to give before they would send Oak Lawn to the free-throw line. But after Rhodes asked for a timeout at the six-second mark to set up an out-of-bounds play, Johnson delivered from beyond the arc to create the need for overtime.
Johnson, who established a single-game school record for 3s the week before by hitting eight versus Fenton, nailed six more here to finish with a team-best 18 points. Prince added 16 points and six boards while Wiltzius had 13 points, passed out six assists and did not commit any turnovers.
Cosenza tied Wiltzius for the assist lead and Dean Khater collected seven rebounds to top the Spartans in that category.
“Our guys just fight,” Rhodes said. “That’s the great thing about coaching this group. They’ve really turned the corner in how they play together and trust in each other. They’re doing a great job of moving the ball and sharing the ball.”
Oak Lawn shot 11 points worse than Argo from the field (39 percent to 50) but had a dozen more attempts, due in part to 17 assists and only seven miscues, seven fewer than the Argonauts. The real difference was found at the charity stripe -- while Argo missed half of its chances, it took 28 free throws compared to nine for the Spartans.
Oak Lawn 73
Pitted against the SSC Red-leading Cardinals on Friday, the Spartans couldn’t afford to let their latest disappointment linger. And in Rhodes’ opinion his players didn’t.
“We were able to refocus pretty quickly and get on to [preparing for] Eisenhower right away,” he said.
Of course, to the casual onlooker it might not have appeared that way as the Cardinals jetted out to a massive 40-14 lead in the first period behind nine 3-point buckets, four of which came on their first five possessions. Eisenhower threw up 58 shots from beyond the arc on the evening and canned 16 of them.
While Rhodes admitted that the Cards’ offensive prowess was mostly responsible for his team’s early predicament, he also felt Oak Lawn hadn’t done itself any favors when it had the ball.
“I thought we had a good game plan going in, but we missed some easy ones,” Rhodes said. “You have to make the layups and finish at the rim.
“What we wanted to do was break their press and try to play keep-away, but we played right into their hands. We can’t beat them at their game. They’re a longer, more athletic team, which makes it tough when they’re crashing five guys.”
The last part of Rhodes’ statement referred to Eisenhower’s willingness to send everyone to the glass in an attempt to grab rebounds. While the Cardinals’ 37 percent shooting paled next to the Spartans’ 50 percent success rate, the former launched 35 more shots thanks to 30 offensive rebounds. Eisenhower scored 35 second-chance points.
Prince did his part to keep Oak Lawn competitive by totaling 30 points and eight rebounds. Khater checked in with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, Johnson netted 10 points and Cosenza distributed 10 assists.
The Spartans, who were charged with two-dozen turnovers -- a number Rhodes thought adequate given the game’s up-tempo nature -- actually outpointed the Cardinals in each of the last three quarters but never by more than three points.
Oak Lawn squares off with cross-town neighbor Richards on Friday.
Oak Lawn 57
Oak Lawn Scoring: Johnson 18, Prince 16, Wiltzius 13, Alshaikh 3, Nelson 3, Cosenza 2, Khater 2. Rebounds: Khater 7, Prince 6. Assists: Cosenza 6, Wiltzius 6.
Oak Lawn 73
Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 30, Khater 16, Johnson 10, Alshaikh 7, Smith 4, Wiltzius 4, Richardson 2. Rebounds: Khater 15, Prince 8. Assists: Cosenza 10, Khater 5.