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Tom Shute poured in 11 of the 23 points Oak Forest scored in a fourth-quarter surge Friday night, but he said the credit belonged elsewhere.
“We’ve got to thank our ‘bench mob,’” he said. “We got a big break because of them and we had our legs at the end. The last two games, I didn’t come off the floor at all, so the rest helped.”
Behind Shute’s shooting and eight fourth-quarter points from Kyle Flanagan, the host Bengals broke open a nip-and-tuck game for a 52-44 win over Evergreen Park in a South Suburban crossover.
Shute finished with 17 points and five rebounds, Flanagan had nine points and Tom Zale added eight points and seven rebounds for Oak Forest (4-6, 2-2).
Sophomore Isaac Matthews paced Evergreen Park (1-8, 1-3) with 10 points.
The Bengals were held to seven points in the second quarter and nine in the third, but caught fire down the stretch.
Shute buried two three-pointers in the first three minutes of the fourth, the second giving Oak Forest a 38-32 lead, and the Mustangs never responded.
Shute later connected on an off-balance floater and buried three game-sealing free throws.
“Once I hit the first three, I started feeling it,” he said.
Oak Forest played 11 players, with coach Matt Manzke often subbing five new players in at once.
“Our bench guys, led by senior Mike Ward, really beat up our starters in practice the last two days,” Manzke said. “They earned the right to play and gave us quality minutes.”
Neither team led by more than five points over the first three quarters. The Bengals led 20-19 at the half.
“We wore down at times at the end,” Evergreen Park coach Pat Flannigan said. “We got outrebounded, and we didn’t shoot well.”
Jason Roland scored seven points off the bench for the Bengals.
Turron Clayton (9 points), Harold Fairley (9 points) and Morgan Murphy (8 points, 6 rebounds) contributed for Evergreen Park.