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Boys Basketball: Playing unselfish ball going long way for Oak Forest

Oak Forest's Tom Shute goes for layup over Glenbard South's Tyler Scott during 2013 Christmas Classic Romeoville Saturday Dec. 28

Oak Forest's Tom Shute goes for a layup over Glenbard South's Tyler Scott during the 2013 Christmas Classic in Romeoville on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 3, 2014 4:11PM

Oak Forest coach Matt Manzke was cautiously optimistic regarding this season.

The Bengals boasted a proven scorer in senior Tom Shute and an emerging big man in 6-foot-9 junior Kyle Flanagan.

But even Manzke is somewhat surprised at Oak Forest’s 10-2 record, which includes the Romeoville Christmas Classic championship.

“We’re playing pretty good basketball,” Manzke said. “We’re playing very unselfishly. We’re moving the ball and the open man is taking the shot. That’s when we’re at our best.”

Shute and Flanagan have lived up to expectations. Shute scored 31 points during the Bengals’ 85-72 win Monday over Oswego East in the title game. Flanagan added 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks while earning Most Valuable Player honors. Flanagan is averaging 16 points and 9 boards for the season. Shute is averaging 13 points per game.

“Shute is scoring less this year, but it’s because we have other guys who can score,” Manzke said.

One of those guys is point guard Jason Roland. The senior has run the show efficiently, averaging 11 points and 7 assists a game.

“Jason is an underrated kid,” Manzke said. “We saw him coming along at the end of last season. He doesn’t play AAU ball. He could be our leading scorer if he wanted to be. He plays the role of point guard to perfection. He’s setting kids up and orchestrating things.”

Another key contributor is junior David Gray, averaging 9 points per game. However, his biggest contribution comes on the defensive end, where he generally is assigned the task of defending the opposing team’s top scorer.

“David embraces the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player,” Manzke said. “He’s the key to our defense.”

Thornton falls short

Thornton didn’t achieve its goal of winning McDipper 41, falling 75-58 to Marian Catholic in Monday night’s championship game. However, the Wildcats (7-4) appear to be rounding into form after a 1-3 start.

“This is the best team I’ve been on during my three years on varsity,” said Justin Taylor, a senior forward. “We’re starting to play better. Nobody expected us to be in the championship. I think we’re going to make it real far this year.”

Player of the Week

Kyle Flanagan, of Oak Forest, is the SouthtownStar Boys Basketball Player of the Week.

Flanagan scored 34 points and pulled down 12 rebounds during the Bengals’ 91-75 win over Glenbard South and added 24 points during a 71-50 win over Romeoville.

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