They had struggled most of the season with one thing or the other – turnovers, scoring, free-throw shooting, etc. – but the Fenwick boys basketball team never seemed to lack hustle, and that’s what the team ended its season on last week in a 48-44 loss to cross-town rival OPRF in the semifinal of the Class 4A Curie Regional.

The Friars, who with 11 losses going into the contest were rightfully considered the underdogs, never gave up. The team cut an 11-point deficit in the third quarter down to one midway through the final stanza.

Tim Gancer’s free throws with 3:29 left in the game gave the Friars a brief 44-43 lead before OPRF secured the victory with a block by Jeff Dirkin and successful trips to the charity stripe by John Weinheimer and Mortell Flowers.

Fenwick’s Jack Dittmer, normally only known for his linebacker abilities on the football field and his defensive skills on the basketball court, scored 10 points for the Friars. Dylan Barnett led the team with 12 points, eight of which came at the free-throw line.

As a team, Fenwick connected on 15-of-22 free throw attempts.

“They came to play and they came to play physical basketball,” said OPRF head coach Matt Maloney about 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.”

Fenwick had its share of ups and downs throughout the season. The team scored just 37 points against Providence – making just 11-of-45 field goals – but managed to win the game. The Friars countered the low-scoring affair with unyielding defense, holding the Celtics to a mere 10 points in the second half.

The Friars, who finished the season with a winning record of 13-12, lose nine seniors to graduation, including frequent contributors David Suwada, Patrick McGrail, Mike Mullen, Xavier Vergara and Dittmer.

Those expected back next season include Barnett, Gancer and Tyler Sewall, who bucketed six three-pointers in Fenwick’s 67-62 victory over Seton earlier in the season. The team made just 15-of-31 shots from the free-throw line in that win.

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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...