It may have been the first game of a new calendar year for the Fenwick boys basketball team but the story line, however, was all two familiar for head coach John Quinn.
While the Friars’ clash with familiar foe St. Rita (8-6,1-0) wasn’t decided until Mustangs guard Roshawn Russell netted the go-ahead basket, a 10-foot runner, with just under four seconds remaining, Fenwick’s inability to execute in the game’s opening and closing minutes lead to their eventual demise. The Friars’ last chance at a victory literally came up short when sophomore guard Xavier Humphrey’s desperation three-pointer from just inside the half court line failed to touch rim or backboard. The 37-35 defeat at Fenwick’s gymnasium Friday night was an inauspicious beginning to conference play for Quinn and the Friars (7-5,0-1).
“We are in a tough stretch of our schedule going back to when we played Hales,” Quinn said. “We are as good as they are but we have to execute better.”
As was the case during the Proviso West Holiday tournament and against cross-town rival Oak Park, the Friars slept walked through the game’s opening quarter and found themselves trailing 16-4 after six minutes of play. The Mustangs utilized beefy-bigs Kendall Hayes (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Kyle Smith (8 points, 5 rebounds) to get high percentage attempts against the Friars’ smaller weaker interior players. Offensively, Fenwick was ice-cold against the Mustangs 2-3 match-up zone.
“This is the sixth straight game we have come out flat, where we’re behind 10 or 12 points,” Quinn said. “It is a mental thing we have to overcome. We have to get on the other team from the first play. The first possessions it’s like we’ve never played basketball before.”
In the second and third quarters, the scrappy Friars played their way back into the game by outscoring the Mustangs 21-10. Led by the outside shooting of Ryan Harbour (13 points) and Derek Tartt (11 points) Fenwick became more aggressive on offense and tightened up their low-post defense. With just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Fenwick managed to tie the game at 24. It was the game’s first tie since the score was 0-0.
With the Friars entering the fourth quarter trailing by a single point, the gym began buzzing at the prospect of stealing a conference victory. The half-capacity student section compensated for the absence of peers, belting chants at decimal levels only teenage eardrums can tolerate.
On the court, the Friars trailed most of the period. Several shots that would have given Fenwick the lead rimmed out. At the 2:30 mark, the Friars tied the game at 35 when the opportunistic Tartt stole the ball under the Mustangs basket and converted the ensuing lay-up into a three-point play.
With under a minute to go and the score still tied, Quinn called a timeout to set-up the game-winning play. Fenwick’s youth, however, proved to be a liability once again as Humphrey, who was held to four points, turned the ball over with 30 seconds remaining.
“We were very unhappy with our possession to take the lead, we had been working on that and our kids came out of position on a timeout,” Quinn said. “We told them where we wanted them to go and the concentration wasn’t there. We can’t have that, that is how you lose.”