Win or lose, the Fenwick High School boys basketball team is more than willing to take on any team anywhere. Morgan Park, the defending Class 3A state champion, served as the latest obstacle in the Friars’ brutally tough schedule. Unfortunately, the Mustangs proved too much for Fenwick on a major stage.

The Mustangs pulled away from the short-handed Friars 77-60 in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament quarterfinals.

The Friars led early, 14-12, as sophomore guard Mike Ballard canned a key three-pointer in the first quarter, aiding Fenwick’s promising start. Morgan Park (9-1) responded with a 15-0 run, however, and never looked back en route to a relatively comfortable win. Fenwick managed an 11-4 spurt to open the third quarter, but Morgan Park never truly appeared threatened after its aforementioned 15-0 run.

“I think we just didn’t play with any heart today,” Fenwick sophomore guard Mike Smith said. “We started off letting them hit some big three-pointers, and that really took the heart out of us. We just couldn’t find it today.”

Senior forward Tom Planek led the Friars with 18 points and five rebounds, while Smith put up 17 points and a team-high six assists. Junior guard Kevin Owens contributed with nine points and senior center Dan Dwyer chipped six points with four rebounds. Senior guard Keshaun Smith missed the game due to injury.The Friars were also missing 6-foot-5 swingman Scott Lindsey with a leg injury.

Josh Cunningham paced the Mustangs with 23 points and 15 rebounds, while teammates Charlie Moore (16 points), Kain Harris (12 points) and Alonzo Chatman (10 points) also reached double figures.

“We’re playing with young guards right now, and it’s hard to play with young guards,” Fenwick coach Rick Malnati said. “We lacked leadership and we just couldn’t execute what we wanted to in our game plan.

“It was an embarrassing game,” Malnati added. “We’ve relied on our defense all year, and we didn’t play defense today. Hopefully this was just a blip on the radar and we can learn from it. We’re a good team; we just didn’t play well today.”

Fenwick (10-3) advanced to the quarterfinals of the prestigious tournament (regarded as one of the premier annual holiday tournaments in the country) by routing Von Steuben 60-26 and defeating Rockford Auburn 62-50. Planek tallied 14 points and eight rebounds against Von Steuben, while Smith scored 26 points against Rockford Auburn. Planek controlled the glass with nine boards.

Despite their disappointing result against Morgan Park, Fenwick has already earned several impressive wins this season, notably over De La Salle, Benet and cross-town rival OPRF.

The Friars look forward to the return of Lindsey, who has committed to Northwestern, as well as their defensive ace, Keyshaun Smith.

“I think the season is going well,” Mike Smith said. “Things will get even better when Scott comes back and can help our team. We’re having a good season right now.”

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