This wouldn’t be much of a preview story without Fenwick, the team expected to hoist a Class AA Girls Basketball State trophy come early March. Sure, Trinity and OPRF shouldn’t be cast aside just yet, but the Friars have never been so favored, yet in the last six years they’ve made it to the Elite Eight five times.
With a stymieing defense combined with the dynamic duo of juniors Devereaux Peters and Alison Jackson, who both exceeded 1,000 points scored in their careers this season, there’s not much that stands in the way of the Friars. Fenwick (29-1) never even lost to a team from Illinois all season. Its only loss of the regular season was to a team from Missouri, and that came on the heals of knocking off a nationally-ranked team from Kentucky.
With a national-ranking of its own, a No. 1 state ranking, and now that the team is a 12-time East Suburban Catholic Conference champ, it’s wise to jump ahead a week or two when analyzing Fenwick’s chances of returning to Redbird Arena in Bloomington-Normal, home of the State Finals.
We’re bypassing Fenwick’s own regional, for the competition compared to this team shouldn’t really even be called competition, more like practice squads with nice uniforms. The Friars should have no problem against either Morton or Clarke tomorrow night (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.). And while we’re at it, let’s skip the first round of the Riverside Brookfield Sectional. With Proviso East, a team not even ranked in the top 20 in the state, as the best seed expected to emerge from the River Grove Regional, Fenwick shouldn’t have any trouble doing a beeline to the sectional title game on Feb. 23, likely against area-rivals Trinity or Riverside Brookfield.
(Note: If sixth-seeded OPRF was able to get through 11th-seeded St. Joseph last night (after deadline), a good game to watch will be Trinity’s title game against the Huskies, also tomorrow night, 7:30 p.m.)
So does Trinity, OPRF, or RB pose a threat to a team ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today?
With Lykendra Johnson, March Smith, Monica Albano and freshman Amanda Macchione, Trinity has had a decent run this season, going 18-6 in the regular season. But four of the losses came from teams ranked in the top 10, not to mention the program was forced to wade through a difficult situation when head coach Don Sansone was fired mid-season with no specific explanation from the administration. Sized up against its Catholic counterpart, Trinity is good but lacks upset potential. The Friars downed the Blazers last season 69-61 in the Lyons Township Sectional title game. The game was close, but Fenwick’s stifling defense wasn’t in top form like it has been of late.
It’ll take a lot for OPRF to shake 11th-ranked Trinity off its back, but the Huskies do stand a chance. After a sluggish start to the season that saw low scoring production, OPRF has seemed to turn the corner. Led by Ashleen Bracey, Tina Frank, Amber Slaughter and Caley Hague, the Huskies held it together in the regular season for a 17-10 overall mark.
Riverside Brookfield is another story. The Bulldogs are a mighty team?#34;25 wins this season, plus a fourth consecutive Suburban Prairie (East) Conference title. But RB never played a highly ranked team. Nonetheless, Fenwick should beware of the McCloskey cousins, Maggie and Katelyn. While Peters, Jackson, and Maggie Kloak should be able to contain Erin Pfieffer, who rattled off double-doubles in points and rebounds in eight consecutive games this season, the McCloskeys may pose a threat from the perimeter. Maggie McCloskey is a three-point specialist. The Loyola-bound senior hit 10 threes in two separate games during the regular season. If Fenwick zeroes in on Maggie, it could create a scoring opportunity for Katelyn.
Fenwick’s dominance during the regular season despite a grueling schedule?#34;playing 15-ranked teams?#34;will give the Friars the advantage over RB. Fenwick may have to work a bit harder at this year’s super-sectional championship than it did at least year’s, but probably not by much. They skated through the super-sectional of ’05 when Harlan was forced to forfeit after violating IHSA rules. With the No. 1 seed being Bogan and the No. 2 seed Elmwood Park, two unranked teams, in the Mother McAuley Sectional, Fenwick should be making reservations downstate.
Hope, Young or Bolingbrook are teams that have the same caliber of players as the Friars. Samantha Wood, who now stars for Bolingbrook, was a member of Fenwick’s team last season. A matchup in the finals would be quite interesting.