Healthy Huskies aim to win conference

Return of Nelson and McGowan augments OPRF's experience, speed

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Patrick Skrine

Contributing Reporter

Despite a last-place finish in conference last season, the Oak Park and River Forest High School girls basketball team's fortunes could completely flip for the better this year.

There is precedent for success as the Huskies won the West Suburban Conference Silver Division two years ago. With the return of a notable players like Maeve Nelson and Carrington McGowan (both missed last season due to injury), OPRF could climb back to the top.

While 2017 graduates Blair Ripley and Molly Cullinane will be missed, the rest of the roster returns from last season. Experience will be a huge plus for the Huskies in their quest to win conference.

The injury bug was a significant reason why the Huskies (10-19, 3-9 last year) struggled last season. The aforementioned injuries to Nelson and McGowan hampered the team's talent and depth.

"Maeve was all-conference as a freshman and sophomore while Carrington was 6th man as a sophomore," OPRF coach JP Coughlin said. "They are two key returners who will be huge for us this year."

In addition to their experience, the Huskies have tons of speed throughout the lineup.

"We are very fast and will play very up tempo," Coughlin said. "In our inner-squad scrimmage, 144 total points were scored. We're going to press and trap all over the court."

Junior guard Ahsha Spencer will lead the charge offensively. Coughlin is thrilled to have such a dynamic guard.

"She is getting major Division 1 looks right now," Coughlin said. "She has emerged as our go-to person offensively since most of our sets are running through her."

Spencer will have a lot of help considering the depth is particularly strong this year for OPRF.

"There are some days in practice when our bench players beat the starters," Coughlin said. "A lot of girls got playing time last year. Having depth is very encouraging especially if we want to play fast."

Proviso West, which won the West Suburban Silver last year, and Lyons Township are top contenders in conference. OPRF should be in the thick of the race as well.

"We are certainly capable of winning conference this year," Coughlin said. "Last year we got off to a good start but then Blair Ripley got hurt. We were never able to remain healthy so we kind of fell off, but everyone is ready to go this year."

The Huskies will play in the loaded Montini Holiday Tournament and battle rivals Fenwick and Trinity in the first month of the season.

"We have a great group of girls this year," Coughlin said. "If they all decide to buy in and come together as a team, we're going to accomplish our goals."

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