The Oak Park and River Forest High School annual summer boys basketball league kicked off last week, with both the host Huskies and neighboring Fenwick seeing plenty of action.
After notching victories over Taft and Gordon Tech in earlier games, OPRF dropped a 50-44 decision to Morton in OPRF summer league competition on June 13.
"This summer is all about establishing leadership" OPRF senior guard Erick Locke said. "We're also focused on instilling a winning mentality into our young guys."
OPRF (2-1) opened the game against Morton on a 15-5 run, employing plenty of defensive pressure which caused several Morton turnovers and led to easy baskets for the Huskies. With OPRF up 10 points at the break, the Mustangs came to life in the second half via a 21-10 spurt to seize a 41-40 advantage with 4:15 left in regulation.
The Huskies had many opportunities to regain control, but they were unable to make free throws down the stretch.
Despite losing 14 seniors, OPRF head coach Matt Maloney enters next season at the Huskies' helm excited about the challenge of coaching so many fresh faces on the varsity roster.
"In my first year, I inherited a squad from [former OPRF] coach [Al] Allen that had one senior who dressed," Maloney said. "We were picked last in conference and ended up finishing second, so I'm used to that challenge."
OPRF welcomes back its leading scorer Locke, along with fellow senior guard Jason Gant. The talented backcourt tandem will be counted on to provide leadership, scoring, passing, defense and just about everything else Maloney will need regarding the Huskies' game plan.
"Erick has been an unbelievable leader in the offseason," Maloney said. "He's going to be our ball handler and our floor facilitator. And at the end of the game, he's going to be a killer."
The Huskies hope to improve on last season's 20-10 mark, which culminated with a 67-48 loss to eventual state runner-up Proviso East in a Class 4A Sectional title game.
Speaking of new looks, Fenwick and new head coach Rick Malnati matched up against Proviso East in the OPRF summer league on June 13 as well. With key returnees like Scott Lindsey, Dan Dwyer and Michael Smith poised for a big 2013-2014 campaign, Fenwick should flourish under Malnati. However, it's still a learning process for the Friars, who are acclimating to Malnati's coaching philosophy along with a demanding style of play anchored in tough defense.
"Every day I get the chance to tell them what I expect and what I want from them" Malnati said.
Fenwick started against Proviso East in strong fashion, taking advantage of transition opportunities and turnovers by the Pirates to build a 34-20 halftime lead. In the second half, Division I prospect Jevon Carter rallied the Pirates with his stellar play.
Proviso East tied the game at 49-49 with just less than 15 seconds remaining. The Pirates had a chance to win the game moments later, but Carter misfired on a long 30-footer extending the drama into overtime.
Proviso East scored the opening bucket in the extra session and never looked back en route to a 57-51 victory over Fenwick.
"We just want to come into the league every day and get better," Malnati said. "I really don't care about the wins and losses as long as we compete."
The Huskies and Friars will resume action with three games apiece in the OPRF summer league this week.