It was a mere tie-breaker rule in pool play that kept the Oak Lawn Community High School boys basketball team out of the Spartan-Ram Classic Thanksgiving tournament championship game last weekend, however, the Spartans (3-1) made the most of their opportunity to play in the third-place game instead.
Saturday night in Oak Lawn the Spartans defeated St. Laurence for third place, 65-49 behind All-Tournament Team selection Johnny McGowan’s 26 points. Nicco Reyes added 13 points and six rebounds, and fellow All-Tournament selection Davion Lawrence finished with nine points and six boards.
“I thought our focus improved on the defensive end of the floor, especially as the tournament went along, and we shared the ball and played with good pace offensively,” Spartans head coach Jason Rhodes said. “Our thing is, we have to play both very hard and smart basketball on both ends of the floor, and I was pleased with our progress on both accounts.”
It was a stifling defensive effort that pushed the Spartans to victory. They limited St. Laurence to just 30% shooting while they themselves shot a red hot 54%. Oak Lawn also outrebounded the Vikings by a 35-31 margin.
Oak Lawn opened their season and the tournament last Monday with a 72-69 heartbreaking loss to Bremen. Despite leading for most of the game, the Spartans fell just short. Again, McGowan led the way with 18 points in 37 minutes of action. Ayham Salah added 15 points and Reyes had 13. Isaiah Thompson chipped in with nine points.
“Obviously, it was tough starting the season with a close loss in a game we expected to win, but in the long run, it can be a good thing for our squad,” Rhodes said. “We have the opportunity to play them [Bremen] again here on Jan. 11.”
In Game 2, the Spartans rebounded with a hard-fought win against Lincoln-Way West, 76-74. The balanced attack of Oak Lawn saw four players with double-digit scoring. Lawrence poured in 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Corey Lee had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. McGowan and Gabe Duer each finished with 10 points. Lincoln-Way West would eventually win the tournament title by beating Chicago Agricultural School.
In the third game, the Spartans coasted to a 55-31 victory over Sandburg and sent the team into the third-place game. Oak Lawn held the Eagles to just 22% from the field. Offensively, Salah and Reyes led the attack with 10 points each, and Lawrence added nine points and eight rebounds. McGowan had seven points for the Spartans in the win.