Hinsdale Central prevails in The Battle of 55th Street

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Hinsdale Central senior Thomas Ives was shocked by the capacity crowd that filled the gym Friday in Hinsdale for the Red Devils matchup with Lyons, The Battle of 55th Street.

“When I walked out and saw it I was speechless,” said Ives. “It hasn’t been that packed here since the ’80s.”

More than 5,000 fans were on hand for the game, sold out and standing room only. Wayne Messmer sang the national anthem, all the Red Devils fans wore white, all the Lions fans were in blue. The game felt like a sectional final, not a conference game in early January.

Red Devils star Matt Rafferty thinks the big crowd and all the buildup may have affected his team at the start.

“We were a little jittery,” said Rafferty. “Not a lot of high school players are used to playing in front of this many people. We got the nerves out in the second half.”

Rafferty was spectacular for all 32 minutes and his teammates came alive in the third quarter to help Hinsdale Central beat Lyons 66-57.

Rafferty scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The 6-8 uncommitted senior shot 11-for-16 from the field and 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

The Lions used a 10-2 burst to lead 34-27 midway through the third quarter. Then Grant Hutcherson hit a 3-pointer for Hinsdale Central. Then Ives drained one. Then Jordan Bradshaw.

Lyons made a couple more runs and took the lead again after that, but the momentum had swung Hinsdale Central’s way for good.

“That’s the thing I really like about this team,” said Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre. “We have a lot of guys that can do damage.”

Lyons (12-4, 3-1 West Suburban Silver) shot well throughout the game. Senior Harrison Niego led the way with 20 points and seven rebounds and Jaquan Phipps dominated the much taller Red Devils, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.

But Hinsdale Central just would not turn the ball over. The Red Devils had only five turnovers in the first half, but they were even better in the second with just one turnover.

“We realized at Proviso West that we were turning the ball over way too much and it was killing us,” said Ives. “It was keeping us from accomplishing what we wanted. So that was a big focus. Take care of the ball, have long possessions.”

Bradshaw finished with 12 points for Hinsdale Central (12-2, 4-0). Ives and George Kiernan added eight.

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