Top 10 Winter Sports Highlights
From November to March there were plenty of cold and grey days, but there were also moments during the winter sports season when local athletes shined and heated up the Oak Park and River Forest area. After days of intense and exhausting discussions (not), we have narrowed down the best sports moments of the season to 10. Enjoy, and as always, no brooding, grandstanding or wagering!

No. 10: OPRF Boys Basketball

Reserve guard Michael Black helps his Fenwick basketball team to two big wins. Black scores 27 points to lead the Friars to a 72-61 victory over highly-ranked Morton. He also scores 15 points, including a game-winning buzzer-beater, in a 66-64 overtime win against 14th-ranked St. Ignatius.

Following Black’s last second shot, Fenwick fans among the sellout crowd storm the court in celebration.

No. 9: Trinity Girls Basketball

The Trinity basketball team’s Monica Albano pours in a career-high 29 points during her team’s 60-55 loss to Whitney Young. The junior, who went on to surpass the 1,200-career point mark, buried seven 3-pointers in the game.

“It took me a while to get warmed up, but once I was, I felt on,” says Albano, who also scored 25 points in a win over Mother McAuley.

No. 8: OPRF Swimming

The Oak Park Swimmers (TOPS) of West Cook YMCA complete their dual meet season with a 4-0 record following a 270-231 victory over the Leaning Tower YMCA Sharks.

In addition, three new team records are established during the season. Hanna Blankemeir sets a team record in the girls 8 and under 500-yard freestyle with a time of 8:17.26, while Nikita Bondarenko sets team records in the boys 11 and 12 500-yard freestyle (5:35.26) and 50-yard breaststroke (35.75).

No. 7: Fenwick Wrestling

Fenwick brothers Nick and Chris Dardanes win medals at the Class AA Wrestling Individual State Finals.

Nick Dardanes ends his season with a 5-3 decision win over Dixon’s Joe Roth at 119 pounds. The sophomore finishes with a 34-5 record.

Chris Dardanes posts a pair of pins to start his tournament at 125 pounds. After a loss, he battles through the consolation bracket to face OPRF’s Ellis Coleman for the third place title. Coleman wins with an 8-3 decision over Dardanes.

No. 6: OPRF Girls Basketball

Gabby Cole scores a career-high 23 points to lead the OPRF girls basketball team a 51-38 win over York. The junior forward had scored 21 points against the Dukes in their first meeting.

No. 5: OPRF Hockey

The OPRF Hockey Club wins a share of the Metro West League title by pummeling Lincoln-Way East 5-1.

The Huskies score two goals in the first period. Stephan Weik finds the net at 5:11 and Jonah Rice scores one of his two goals in the game on a power play at the 3:50 mark. Phillip O’Connor scores in third, as does Joseph Herner.

Goalkeeper Tyler Houston finishes with 21 saves.

No. 4: Fenwick Girls Basketball

A quick putback by Katlyn Payne in the closing seconds helps the Fenwick girls basketball team to a 59-55 victory over Marian Catholic and gives the Friars their 14th consecutive East Suburban Catholic Conference Championship.

Payne scores 22 points in the win, and the Friars go on to finish the season with a 29-6 overall record.

No. 3: Speed Skating

Michael Koenig, a 5th grader at Lincoln Elementary in Oak Park, is named state champion in the Pony Men (9-10 year olds) division at the Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Missouri state long track speed skating championships held in Milwaukee. Besides placing first in the competition, Koenig also breaks the state records in the 500 and 600-meter distances.

No. 2: OPRF Wrestling

The OPRF wrestling team wins the West Suburban (Silver) Conference outright with a 37-20 victory over Lyons Township.

Unbeaten in the conference and with LT and Hinsdale Central both having one loss, the Huskies go into the match knowing that they could finish with at least a share of the conference title.

“They wanted it all to themselves,” says OPRF wrestling coach Mike Powell of his team that grapples to nine division titles for sole possession of the championship.

Ellis Coleman wins by pin in the second period. The junior goes on to finish third at state.

Kendall Hutchinson wins the 103-pound weight division with a 14-7 decision. Ethan Moes wins at 119 with a pin in the second period.

Other division champs in the bout with LT include Lillashawn Coleman (125), Colin Weir (160), Nick Zager (171), Ben Brooks (189), Matt Monson (215) and Krys Watkins (heavyweight).

And the No. 1 sports highlight of the winter season …. We are waiting for you to make that little drum roll sound by putting your tongue on the top of your mouth …Please, stop. You’re spitting all over the paper!

The OPRF boys basketball team downs Fenwick 51-38 in front of over 2,500 spectators crammed into the school’s fieldhouse to win the Oak Park Regional Championship.

The game, which came down to a two-point margin with 3:11 left on the clock after Fenwick came back from an 11-point deficit, is OPRF head coach Al Allen’s last in the fieldhouse. Allen coached the basketball program for 21 years at OPRF before retiring at the end of this season.

McDonald’s All-American Iman Shumpert scores just two points in the first three quarters of action for OPRF, but then rattles off 12 in the final period to help close out the win.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...