Girls Basketball: Lyons-Hinsdale Central rivalry alive and wellLa Grange, IL - Friday, January 4, 2013: Oak Park-River Forest's Helen Onyenso (24) backs in on Lyons Township's Ashanti Davis (23). | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 9, 2012 7:31PM
With only five miles separating Hinsdale Central and Lyons, the rivalry between the West Suburban Silver schools can get intense.
On Facebook, LT alums belong to a 1,146-member group called, “Lyons Township is better than Hinsdale Central.” And the rivalry carries over to the athletic field in just about any sport.
In girls basketball, Hinsdale Central owned the upper hand during the era of all-state guard Toni Kokenis, who’s now at Stanford. Kokenis graduated in 2010.
During disappointing seasons ending in 2011, the two teams split the two-game series. Lyons Township (10-5, 4-2) and the Red Devils (6-10, 3-4) combined for only 12 wins last season.
Lyons Township already won the first meeting this season, posting a 58-41 victory in Hinsdale on Dec. 3. The two teams meet again in La Grange at 6 p.m. Saturday.
LT fell behind by one game in the race for the conference lead with Proviso West (15-8, 6-1), as the Panthers defeated the Red Devils 47-32 on Saturday. At nearly the same time, Oak Park-River Forest’s Stekara Hall, an Illinois State University recruit, was scoring 33 points in leading the host Huskies to a 63-62 win over LT. LT’s Colleen Connors made two free throws in the final seconds, but the Lions couldn’t get the ball back for another possession.
In the first quarter, LT was up by 11 points.
“(OPRF) started coming back gradually, and then all of a sudden they came really close,” Connors said. “We started pressing.”
Lyons Township hosts Proviso West at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 21.
The second Hinsdale Central-Lyons Township battle could feature three freshmen on the floor at the same time — LT’s Vicki Swift, Hinsdale Central’s Gabrielle Rush, a starter, and reserve Sydney Griffin. Griffin sprained her left ankle while playing club soccer with Eclipse East before the season and missed the beginning of the basketball season, but she’s been gaining more and more playing time in recent games.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with everyone,” Griffin said. “I enjoy it. I’ve been trying to play hard since getting back in.”
Griffin plans on joining the Red Devils girls soccer team in the spring.
Rush, who scored 29 points in her varsity debut against Naperville Central, scored 25 points in a 63-61 win over St. Joseph Friday night, which helped drop the Chargers (13-5) from No. 16 to No. 25 in YourSeason.com’s rankings. Rush scored at least 18 points in her two previous games.
Swift scored 14 points in her third varsity game, a 56-39 win over West Chicago during LT’s tournament on Nov. 22. One of her best games was a 13-point effort in 48-41 win at Riverside-Brookfield on Dec. 10.
“It’s more about getting in sync with the other players,” Swift said. “I have talked with coach (Katie Meyers) about what more I have to work on. Coach says it will only get better from here.”
The loss to OPRF will be a hard one to forget for Swift, who hasn’t played in many heartbreaking defeats for an improved LT squad this season.
“It hurt after that game,” Swift said.
Swift missed some of the preseason after injuring her right hamstring while attending the Doug Bruno camp at North Central College in August. She attributes playing for the AAU Chicago Hoops Express for her promotion to varsity. She played with the sophomore team over the summer. Swift did not return to the court until tryouts Oct. 31.
“I remember the first Hinsdale Central game, being a freshman walking into the program,” Swift said. “It’s a lot different than junior high rivalries. I’m psyched to know they are one of our biggest rivals.”
Swift moved to LT’s varsity team after playing for Park Junior High in La Grange as an eighth grader last season.
Coaches from both sides are familiar with the rivalry. Meyers, LT’s second-year coach, is a former standout player at the school, and Red Devils assistant coach Gia Pellizzari played for Hinsdale Central.
Each side in the rivalry boasts talented sophomores. The Red Devils’ Maddie Roglich starts at guard, while Jenna Broz comes off the bench. Both played for Hinsdale Central’s girls volleyball program. Lyons Township’s Kayla Morrissey was a reserve for the Devils during the Wheaton North Holiday Classic.