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“To be favored means nothing going into a game like this,” said OPRF head boys basketball coach Matt Maloney after his Huskies survived a gallant effort by cross-town rival Fenwick on Wednesday night for a 48-44 victory in the Class 4A Curie Regional semifinal in Chicago.
With 3:28 left in the game, the Friars (13-12) took a 44-43 lead on two-straight free throws by Tim Gancer. But the Huskies (22-5) answered in the form of John Weinheimer, who hit a jump-shot to take back the lead and then drained a pair of free throws with 40.2 seconds left to give his team some breathing room.
After a monstrous block by Jeff Dirkin on Fenwick’s next possession, Mortell Flowers sealed the win for OPRF by hitting 1-of-2 free throws.
“They came to play, and they came to play physical basketball,” said Maloney of the Friars. “I give them a lot of credit; they knocked us out of our game in the first half. They wanted to play football, and they were successful in that strategy. Luckily, we were able to match that in the second half and sort of set them on their heels a bit.”
With the score tied at 23-23 to start the third, the Huskies scored the first 11 points of the period. But by the time the quarter ended, Fenwick trailed by just three. Dylan Barnett and Mike Mullin combined to make 3-of-4 free throws in the closing seconds to keep the Friars in the game.
Jeff Stanciel-Wynn led OPRF with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Weinheimer, whose buzzer-beating layup knotted the score before the break, finished with 14 points.
Fenwick was led by Dylan Barnett, who had 12 points. Harvard-bound Jack Dittmer added 10 points for the Friars.
The Huskies will now face Proviso West in the regional title game on Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Curie. OPRF split two games against the Panthers during the regular season, the most recent a 55-52 loss on Feb. 13 in Hillside.
If the Huskies are able to get past Proviso West, they’ll face No. 1 seed Whitney Young in the semifinal of the Proviso East Sectional on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m.).
For more on this game and Friday’s regional championship, see the print edition of the March 10 Wednesday Journal.