Since Niles North joined the CSL South the boys basketball matchup between the Vikings and Wolves has lost a little of the luster and bravado from previous years.
But what may have been lost in fan support has been gained ten-fold in conference significance as Niles North controlled the game from start to finish to post a 61-48 win and start out the CSL South season with a win.
Niles North coach Glenn Olson said: “Since we play twice a year this is less of an event for the students but the ante is up for us as coaches because it’s a conference game.”
The first quarter saw both teams exchange baskets until Niles North’s Robert Pryor entered the game midway through the first half.
Robert’s defensive intensity forced two turnovers and a tremendous effort on an offensive rebound and putback gave the Vikings an 11-8 lead at the end of the quarter.
“Rob provides us with great energy and a relentless pursuit of the basketball, he is just happy to be on the floor,” Olson added.
Despite Niles West attempt to slow the game down by playing a packed in man defense, Niles North carried the momentum into the second quarter, going on a 9-0 run to open up a 24-13 lead.
The second half was more of the same as North continued to up the defensive intensity, limiting the Wolves to just 30 points after three quarters while doing just enough offensively to maintain a comfortable lead.
With Niles West content in sitting back in their pack line defense, Niles North dribbled off the first 35 seconds of the quarter before deciding that it was time to play. After a couple more layups from Pryor to open the lead to 17 at 53-36.
Niles West would take advantage of a sloppy run of play, going on a 10 point run to erase the deficit to just seven points, but sophomores Jalen Butler and Elijah Bull helped stretch the lead back to 9 and allowing the Vikings to comfortably close out the game.
Olson noted the closing quarters highs and lows: “We left a lot of points out there but we have multiple weapons and once our underclassmen hit their stride we will take off.”
Niles North was led in scoring by Aquan Smart (15), Omar Policape (14) and Pryor (14) while Niles West was led by Mason Williams (10) and Jaylen Miller (10).
Niles North will head to Glenview next Friday to face undefeated Glenbrook South, with the difficult conference schedule not going unnoticed by anybody.
“I know it’s cliche’ but there are no easy nights in our conference, the CSL South is completely nuts,” said Olson. “We have undefeated Glenbrook South next week and we follow that with state ranked Evanston. I told our kids tonight before the game that we are lucky to play in this league.”
Niles West also has the challenge of a quick turnaround with a 3:00 PM game against St. Ignatius tomorrow afternoon followed by a game next Friday versus New Trier.