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Lyons shuts down Conant to advance to York quarterfinals

At 5-11 and 160 pounds, Lyons senior Aidan Sullivan is usually one of the smaller players on the court. He might also be the most persistent.

Lyons’ Connor Carroll (14) looks to moves the ball as Conant’s Mbissane Ndir (25) defends.
Lyons’ Connor Carroll (14) looks to moves the ball as Conant’s Mbissane Ndir (25) defends.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

At 5-11 and 160 pounds, Lyons senior Aidan Sullivan is usually one of the smaller players on the court.

He might also be the most persistent.

Cut as a freshman and a bench player as a sophomore and junior, Sullivan has emerged as a key piece for the 9-2 Lions.

He grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds on Tuesday as Lyons rode a dominant defensive effort to a 55-18 win over Conant in the second round of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament at York.

“I’ve kind of accepted that as my role, to go get some rebounds and just be gritty out there,” Sullivan said.

He wasn’t the only Lion to embrace that role on Tuesday. Mixing and matching defenses, Lyons opened a 10-2 lead in the first 2:05 and never let Conant back in the game.

The Cougars (8-4), who were coming off a first-round win over St. Ignatius, did not have a field goal in the final 17:11 of the game. They finished 4 of 37 from the field (10.8%), including 2 of 25 from three-point range (8%).

Sullivan’s relentless rebounding had something to do with that, denying Conant many second chances.

“He’s probably grown a foot since his freshman year,” Lyons coach Tom Sloan said of Sullivan. “He’s a football player, just a tough son of a gun. He goes to the glass and makes hustle plays. He’s a really important player for us.”

Sullivan quickly established himself in that role this season, earning all-tourney honors at the Lions’ Thanksgiving tournament.

It’s a nice cap to the high school career for a kid who never gave up on the sport he’s been around for years.

“I’ve grown up playing basketball since I was super young and I just enjoyed hanging with my friends and playing,” he said.

“He’s never given up,” teammate Tavari Johnson said. “He was cut freshman year and he was at all the games. ... He kept working out, kept working out and now he’s here in the starting five.”

Johnson, an Akron recruit, is another spark plug for Lyons. The quick, athletic 6-footer scored a game-high 18 points with a variety of moves. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

“I think that’s my job to be more of a scorer if I have to, but at times to be more of a distributor because I have the ball in my hand most of the time I’m in,” Johnson said.

“We encourage him to be aggressive,” Sloan said of Johnson. “And when you do those kind of things, you might throw the ball away one time, you might get a shot blocked.

“That’s part of the game, mistakes are gonna happen. As long as they’re not mental mistakes or silly mistakes ... that’s life and you move on.”

Niklas Polonowski, a 6-6 junior who hit a pair of three-pointers in Lyons’ opening flurry, added 10 points.