Proviso East tops Oak Park in West Suburban title game

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Proviso East’s Devin Spencer eyes Oak Park’s defense during the West Suburban championship game Tuesday in Oak Park. Ben Pope/For the Sun-Times

Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce found himself in a tough situation entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s West Suburban championship: his team held a three-point lead but had committed 21 fouls and counting, with nearly every starter in foul trouble.

He switched his defense into a zone, he told his players to stop reaching and the Pirates managed to walk the tightrope for the entirety of the fourth quarter.

Zero of Boyce’s players fouled out and Proviso East ultimately beat Oak Park 81-73 to win the conference title.

“In the end, we executed a little bit better and that was the difference of the game,” Boyce said. “That fourth quarter, we amped up the pressure, stopped worrying about the foul trouble and made it tough for them.”

Oak Park (17-8), the defending conference champions, had topped with the West Suburban Silver division with an 11-1 record and was at home Tuesday. But Proviso East (22-8), the Gold division winners with a 10-2 record, rallied from an early seven-point deficit to lead 41-37 at half, 56-53 going to the fourth and by at least one point the rest of the way.

Proviso East finished the game with four players sporting four fouls after putting Oak Park in the bonus before the midpoint of both halves, but never really paid the price for its lack of discipline.

Instead, it was Anthony Roberts — the Huskies’ offensive quarterback and leading scorer with 19 points — who was forced to the bench with 3:10 to go, and fellow star Charlie Hoehne (14 points, 10 rebounds) also had to play the final minutes hesitantly because of his four fouls. Even more incredibly, the Pirates ended up taking 11 more free throws and making eight more than the Huskies in the final stats.

“I can’t explain that — I wish I could explain how that happened,” Oak Park coach Matt Maloney said. “I thought we still attacked the rim, I thought we were still aggressive. I don’t exactly know why it was that way.”

Senior point guard Devin Spencer, rather diminutive at 5-11 and rarely the Pirates’ scoring leader this season, evolved into an unstoppable weapon at the perfect time Tuesday, scoring 28 points and singlehandedly drawing 11 foul calls (he went 14-for-20 at the stripe).

James Hobson added 15 points, Aaron Sykes tallied 14 and seven other players also scored for the visitors.

“We needed a push as a team, and a couple of our scorers were slacking, so I just felt I had to step up,” Spencer said. “Basically I was just talking what the defense was giving me, because sometimes they were over-aggressive.”

The 2019 West Suburban title is Proviso East’s first since Boyce’s first two seasons of 2011-12 and 2012-13, which both ended in top-four finishes in the state playoffs.

In this year’s squad, which will put its solid resume to the test against Lane in the Class 4A regional at Young next Wednesday, Boyce said he sees some flashes of those legendary teams of earlier in the decade.

“We’re getting back to the style of play that I wanted to play when I first got here back in 2012: A little bit more attacking, a better understanding of rotations,” Boyce said. “(With this win), we put everybody on notice.”

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