Proviso East tops Oak Park in West Suburban title game

Proviso East attacks Oak Park's defense during the West Suburban championship game Tuesday in Oak Park. Ben Pope/For the Sun-Times
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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8 comments

  • HS B-Ball Fan

    Congrats to Proviso East, You guys foul way too much and many of them are not needed because the traps alone will force turnovers. I have always said that if Donnie confuses teams by switching to a zone sometimes his pressure will be just as good but less foul trouble. Lane Tech is a very tough team they see pressure every game in the Red Northwest and they shoot the ball very well. Don’t get this team in the bonus early they will make you pay. Good luck East.

    • 50 year alum

      Thanks you are so right about man to man and zone defense got to see LaneTech twice this year they shoot the ball very well and make their free throws they play tough teams that pressure so East must be ready and not take any team lightly

  • Aaron Janovsky

    Now it’s finally time to get these hard working Pirates into the top 25 rankings. I know they are a bit undersized but they are well coached and if refs allow them to instill their relentless type of defense they’re tough to beat. Taking down Oak Park was the latest in a fine performance for this under valued squad that is led by senior Devin Spencer who continues to do an admirable job directing his team despite the level of competition on the other side of the court. Regardless what happenes at Young I’m very proud of this team and the shear determination and heart they play with every single game. Again if the refs allow them to play their relentless defense I don’t think there’s a team around looking forward to lacing up against this Pirate team. Now put them in your top 25! Lol

    • 50 year alum

      Way to go Aaron I knew you would write something our talk after the game last night was very cool see you Friday at senior night vs Champaign Central

  • 50 year alum

    Yes finally thank you Ben Pope for attending the game tonight I have been writing all year for someone from the Times to come see us in person you sure picked the right game to attend.As a 50 year alum of Proviso East I could not be more proud of this team.The gold division has been much aligned this year with York and Oak Park of the silver getting the most attention. But this Proviso team plays every game so hard and with so much heart. Our leader all year has been Devin Spencer it was great to see him make those clutch free throws in the end. Without a big man we are a pressing defensive team but so often get taken out of games early by over zealous referees tonight we kept our composure and went to a zone defense and played smart defense in the end. Donnie and his coaching staff have done a great job this year and to see this pay off for these kids was something special. They really deserved this. Oak park never saw this coming but I know from watching this conference all year that Oak Park has not faced this kind of defense all year in the silver.We have played a tough schedule this year and our 22-8 record should have given us a better regional seed. But this school will never back down or be intimidated by any team.So again thanks for the great article and your attendance at our game tonight many proviso fans know who this is writing this comment I will always stick up for my school and give them the respect they have earned and deserve GO PIRATES

  • Jack Lydon

    Ben Pope needs you guys to get him a photographer. Worsom can’t be everywhere all the time!

    • Ben Pope

      Kevin Tanaka, one of our excellent photographers, is with me at the majority of games.

      • 50 year alum

        Hey Ben I mention you and thank you for attending our game last night but no comment back? Come on buddy tell us Pirate fans what you think of our team ha ha just kidding again thanks for the pub you are the first writer to give us that much positive ink all year. We do appreciate it!

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