It's not easy playing basketball in front of the greatest basketball player in the world, but Fenwick managed to play well in a 67-57 win over Loyola in Wilmette on Friday night when Michael Jordan was on hand to watch his son Jeffery, a leading scorer for the Ramblers, play.
Kelvin Johnson, ironically wearing No. 23, scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Friars (16-6, 10-2) in the Catholic League (North) victory. But it was Peter Flowers who got Fenwick rolling in the first quarter, scoring nine of his 18 points. The Friars took a comfortable 21-11 lead with the help of Flowers and by holding the Ramblers to just 2 of 11 from the field.
"With a big crowd, mixed with celebrities, we were fortunate to get off to a good start," said Fenwick head coach John Quinn, referring also to former Bull Charles Oakley who attended the game.
Flowers was forced to the bench in the second period due to foul trouble, and the Ramblers (17-5, 7-4) quickly took advantage of the junior's absence. Loyola cut the deficit to four, before Nick Harvalis came off the bench to nail a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Friars a 29-22 lead at the break.
With 6-foot-8-inch center Blake Neilsen playing sparingly due to a bout with the flu?#34;he wasn't able to practice the week prior to the game?#34;Michael Alexander took up rebounding for Fenwick. Alexander hauled down 17 rebounds, 11 in the second half, and tied a team record set by Flowers earlier in the year.
The Friars nearly let things slip away in the fourth, missing nine free throws and allowing six turnovers. Loyola pushed the difference to 62-57 with 30 seconds left, but Newman Delaney and Flowers hit four key free throws to put the game out of reach for the Friars.
"I wasn't too happy with the last quarter but we've been struggling in the fourth quarter all season," said Quinn of his Friars, who made 13 of 23 from the charity stripe for the game. "We need to do a better job of putting teams away. We need to do a better job at the free-throw line."
Doug Kadison led Loyola with 24 points, 13 of which came in the final period. Jeff Jordan, who normally averages 15 points per game for the Ramblers, was held to 11.
The Friars, who were awarded a fourth seed in the Morton Sectional, traveled to north Chicago on Tuesday night (after deadline) to take on Gordon Tech. The team will play its last game of the season on Feb. 26 at home for Senior Night against Mt. Carmel.
Quinn said right now he just hopes the flu bug stays at bay.
"It's been going around school, and it's not the ideal time to get plagued by it," he said. "I hope it doesn't ravage our team."
Hales Franciscan 12 0 20 4
Fenwick 10 2 16 6
St. Ignatius 9 3 15 7
Loyola 7 4 17 5
Mt. Carmel 7 4 15 7
De La Salle 6 5 13 9
Gordon Tech 4 8 8 14
Guerin 4 8 7 16