Fenwick     61
Mt. Carmel 54

Mount Carmel rolled into Fenwick on Friday night with a burgeoning reputation as an elite team led by the precocious backcourt duo of freshman Malcolm Hill-Bey and sophomore guard Tracy Abrams. While it’s obvious the Caravan’s kids can play, the Catholic League was reminded not to sleep on the Friars’ savvy senior pair of Xavier Humphrey and Michael Black, who carried Fenwick to a 61-54 win over Mt. Carmel in the conference crossover match-up.

“We started four seniors,” Humphrey said. “Me, Mike and Evan [Okrzesik] have grown up together. We have stuck together. Mount Carmel is a young team but very talented. I think our experience really played a big factor [tonight].”

Humphrey scored a game-high 25 points and hauled in 11 rebounds while Black added 15 points.

After an opening basket by Mt. Carmel’s Billy Clark, Humphrey and Black collaborated for all of the Friars’ 24 points in the first half as Fenwick went on a 24-4 rampage to take a commanding 24-6 lead with 4:45 remaining until the half. Abrams (11 points), who shot just 2-of-15 from the field, scored five points during an 11-0 spurt to get the Caravan back in the game at 24-17 by halftime.

“Great defense wins games,” Black said. “Coming into this game, our coaches stressed defense.”

While Hill-Bey didn’t play due to an ankle injury, sophomore Adonis Filer-another key player in the Caravan youth movement-netted 16 points.

“We have senior experienced players who know what to do and they don’t panic,” said Fenwick coach John Quinn. “Mount Carmel is an excellent team, but we thought we could defend them in the halfcourt well, which we did [in the first half]. Our senior experience in the backcourt was the key factor.”

Along with Black, Okrzesik (6 rebounds) did a nice job distributing the basketball.

“Evan is outstanding at finding people,” said Quinn about his playmaking guard.

Early in the third quarter, Mt. Carmel whittled the Friars’ advantage to 26-23 on two free throws by Filer. However, Fenwick (4-1, 2-0 Catholic League North) extended its lead to 41-27 by outscoring the Caravan 17-10 in the quarter, triggered by a 13-0 spurt that included a pair of timely three-pointers from Joseluis Gamboa (8 points).

Mount Carmel cut the Friars’ lead to 46-33 on a bucket by Filer midway through the fourth quarter, but Fenwick essentially traded baskets the rest of the way to hold on for the victory.

The Friars downed Mt. Carmel before a packed house at Fenwick that included an array of notable alumni in Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, former Heisman Trophy winner John Lattner, and recent Fenwick star athletes Jason Okrzesik and Reid Rooney.

Don McAvoy had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Caravan (5-3).

“I think at the start of the game, we just weren’t ready to play,” said Mt. Carmel’s Mike Flaherty. “We missed a lot of easy shots and dug ourselves a hole. I thought we played hard, but every time we had a chance to make it a game we would make a mistake.”

After taking on undefeated De La Salle last night (Tuesday, after deadline), the Friars were set to travel to Leo on Friday and cross-town rival Oak Park on Saturday (7:30 p.m.).

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...