Graham Smith knows his basketball days are numbered.
“I don’t think I’m ready to give it up yet,” the Lyons senior said Friday night.
Smith is one of the state’s top tight ends, a three-star prospect according to 247Sports who is heading off to Yale to play football in the fall.
But he still has some unfinished business on the basketball court. He put his 6-5, 210-pound frame to good use in the Class 4A regional final against Curie in LaGrange.
Smith scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the No. 22 Lions knocked off the No. 5 Condors 49-46. Lyons won its second straight regional and snapped Curie’s string of regional championships at seven. The Lions play West Suburban Silver rival Hinsdale Central in Wednesday’s Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinals.
The Lions advanced by playing a grind-it-out game. They were down 16-11 after one quarter, tied 26-all at halftime and down 34-32 after three quarters.
Carter Reid put Lyons (26-5) ahead to stay at 42-41 by hitting one of two free throws with 3:39 left and Connor Carroll went coast-to-coast to make it 44-41 at 3:03. Lyons’ defense and rebounding did the rest.
“We knew they were going to come in and they were going to get offensive rebounds and they were going to try and push it in transition,” Smith said. “And we knew we can’t hang with them if we try to play an up-and-down game. We tried to slow it down as much as possible and limit their opportunities for transition and make sure we’re playing our game.”
Jackson Niego scored a team-high 15 points for the Lions.
Lyons coach Tom Sloan gave his team three tasks coming in. “We had to handle the ball against pressure, we had to defend the drive and we had to rebound,” he said. “Those were the things we talked about over and over and over.
“We weren’t perfect with it. We turned it over a little too much at times, we got beat off the dribble a little bit, we gave up a couple offensive rebounds. But I think we won those battles more than we lost them.”
Curie (20-11) was carried by senior forward Jeremy Harrington Jr., who scored 27 of the Condors’ 46 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“That’s Jeremy,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said. “I can’t believe he doesn’t have a scholarship yet.”
Chikasi Ofoma scored eight points for the Condors, but standout junior guard Carlos Harris was held to one basket and four points.
“It was just guys who were ready to get a hand up and ready to defend the drive,” Sloan said of stopping Harris. “It wasn’t one guy, it was the team.”
Sloan said the win as “as big as it gets. I had a couple people say, ‘Holy cow, this was a regional game?’
“This was not a game that was won by the beauty of offense or anything. It was won by toughness and making tough plays.”