Flowers' return could be ultimate holiday gift for Friars

? Team picks up two wins without star forward.

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By BRAD SPENCER, Sports Editor

The Friars are no doubt looking forward to Monday night when they take on St. Joseph in their opener of the 46th Annual Proviso West Holiday tournament, a 16-team basketball bonanza in Hillside featuring some of the best teams in the state?#34;seven teams participating, including No. 1 Hillcrest, are ranked in the top 10 in one poll.

Not only will Fenwick, which picked up two wins last week, go head-to-head with a consistently successful ballclub, but the Friars will welcome back star forward Peter Flowers.

Flowers sustained and played through a mild concussion in a double-overtime loss to Brother Rice on Dec. 10. Fenwick won two games without the 6-foot-5-inch junior last week, a 62-47 victory over Quigley Prep on Dec. 14 and a 66-46 win over St. Laurence on Friday. Head coach John Quinn said Flowers was to participate in some light drills at practice by Thursday.

"He takes our team to another level," said Quinn of Flowers.

The last time Fenwick opened the Proviso West tournament against St. Joe was in 1990, when the team was being filmed for the movie "Hoop Dreams." Fenwick came away with the win.

"St. Joe always fields a competitive team," said Quinn whose team defeated Whitney Young in its opener last year and went on to lose to eventual State runner-up Homewood-Flossmoor. "It'll be a challenging tournament from the get-go once again, but that's not a bad thing. The [Proviso West] tourney is always the premiere tournament in the area over the holidays. We love being in it because it features some of the best teams in the state. The atmosphere is similar to the State tournament and that helps us prepare for the second half of the season."

In the win over St. Laurence, the Friars improved their play in one particular area. Fenwick hit 21 of 29 free throws, something the team hasn't been particularly consistent at.

"Free throw shooting has been difficult for us early this season," said Quinn, "so it's good to see we're making positive progress."

Kelvin Johnson, who also led Fenwick with 16 points over Quigley, poured in a career high 26 points against St. Laurence despite foul trouble that kept him out most of the second quarter. Nick Harvalis (eight points) connected on two 3-pointers in the second to give Fenwick a 34-29 lead at the break. Blake Neilsen chipped in 10 points for the Friars, who boosted their record to 7-2 overall with the win.

Michael Alexander had 11 points and five rebounds in the win over Quigley.

Other top teams participating in the Proviso West Holiday tournament include Homewood-Flossmoor, Glenbrook North, Von Steuben, Julian, and Proviso East.

If the Friars win their opener in the double-elimination tournament, they'll play on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. A loss would push up their next game to Tuesday at 1:45 p.m.

Contact: bspencer@wjinc.com

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