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Davion Lawrence’s double-double leads Oak Lawn over Richards

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

When they were growing up, Johnny McGowan had the upper hand when squaring off on the court against Davion Lawrence.

“Me and him go way back,” said McGowan, a senior guard at Oak Lawn. “He used to sleep over at my house when we were younger. We went to Simmons together, our middle school. He’d always be in my backyard playing.

“I used to bully him on the court, believe it or not.”

Now, Lawrence is certainly the bully. Richards was on the receiving end of the senior center’s bullying Jan. 21 when he went off for 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the visiting Spartans to a 51-50 win in a South Suburban Red game.

“It means a lot,” Lawrence said. “This is the biggest rivalry in Oak Lawn. It means so much to me. Me and my team went out there and battled to the last horn.”

McGowan added six points and seven rebounds for the Spartans (15-4, 7-1). Isaiah Thompson pulled down 11 rebounds.

Lavell Nash scored 13 points and Greg Miller had 12 points for Richards (10-9, 4-5).

After building a 13-point lead in the third quarter, Oak Lawn had to hold on in the final seconds.

Richards rallied and took a 44-43 lead on Deven Jiles’ free throw with 4:02 left in the game.

The Spartans countered with six straight points, three from Lawrence, to go back up 49-44, but Ladarius Kelley hit a 3-pointer and Nash’s putback with 20 seconds left tied it 49-49.

Lawrence was fouled on the other end and hit both free throws with 10.6 seconds left to put the Spartans up two and set up a frenetic finish.

In the closing seconds, Richards’ Santiago Rios caught the Spartans off-guard on a baseline inbound pass, bouncing it off the back of a defender and catching it himself, then drawing a foul.

Rios made the first free throw but missed the second and Samuel Cain’s shot at the buzzer rimmed out after an offensive rebound.

“That seems to always happen in these games, us making a run or them making a run,” Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes said. “We did a good job regaining our composure, and I thought we did a nice job handling the ball late and getting to the free-throw line.”

The win gives Oak Lawn a commanding four-game lead in the SSC Red race with five games to go. The Spartans have not won a conference title in more than 35 years.

““We have these alumni meetings every year and everyone is asking, ‘When are you going to do it? When are you going to do it?’” Rhodes said of winning the Red championship. “We’ve been the bridesmaid a few too many times.

“This was a big one to take a commanding lead. We still have some big games and some formidable opponents left.”

Lawrence’s big performance continued a breakout season for the senior, who has thrived after slimming down. Rhodes said Lawrence was a bit out of shape in his first varsity year last season.

“It started off with football,” Lawrence said. “Six of the seniors forced me to play football, basically. We started from the summer with football and right into the beginning of basketball season, just working out all the time and getting in shape.”

Kelley and Jiles had eight points each for Richards.

“We had our chances at the end,” Richards coach Kyle Rathbun said. “When you miss seven free throws, it’s tough. Effort-wise, there’s nothing to complain about. We played really hard.

“We just have to get back to playing our style of basketball, trying to turn some teams over.”

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