Photos by J.Geil/Staff Photographer

The Fenwick boys basketball team upset highly-ranked and previously undefeated De La Salle 49-48 on Friday night in Oak Park.

Call them scrappy or gritty – or both – but the Friars (7-6) held 6-foot-9 Illinois-bound Mike Shaw to just three points in the first half and made key shots when it mattered most in the final minutes of the game to hand the Meteors (12-1) their first loss of the season.

Tim Gancer scored the game-winner for Fenwick in the Catholic League cross-over matchup. The senior forward slipped in a shot under the basket with 35.5 seconds left in the game. Desperation shots by De La Salle’s Dre Henley and Alex Foster in the closing seconds didn’t fall for the Meteors and the Friars were soon swarmed by the Fenwick student section at mid-court.

“I have never experienced anything like that in my life,” said Gancer after the game. “It was surreal. We scored, they missed, and all of a sudden everyone was around us.”

Fenwick’s Sam Ainsworth made 1-of-2 free throw shots but rebounded the second only to be fouled again with 1:56 left. The junior forward made his next two freebies to put the Friars up 47-46. Jaylon Tate answered with a layup off a steal to give De La Salle back the lead before Gancer’s heroics.

“I was certainly surprised that Shaw did not take the last shot of the game,” said Fenwick head coach John Quinn. “But our goal was to isolate him the entire game and the guys stuck with it until the final buzzer.”

Ainsworth finished with a team-high 12 points for the Friars, who welcomed starting guard Dylan Barnett back to the lineup. Barnett, who finished with 10 points, suffered a high-ankle sprain before the New Year, leaving him out of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

“It was huge having Dylan back tonight,” said Gancer about his teammate, who hit two key jumpers to start the fourth quarter. “Having him on the floor takes more pressure off the rest of us. He was a big part of this win.”

Shaw ended up with just 15 points for the Meteors, who at the time were ranked second in the state by the Chicago Tribune and third by the Sun-Times.

Fenwick’s celebration didn’t last too long as the Friars fell to Ridgewood 48-42 in nonconference action in the second game of a doubleheader with the Fenwick girls team for Pack the Place Night on Saturday night. Fenwick’s Tyler Sewall and Pat Hart scored nine points apiece against the Rebels (12-2).

The Friars travel to Hales Franciscan on Friday (7:30 p.m.). Hales has been ranked as high as seventh this season.

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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...