By geography and intensity, the Fenwick and Oak Park and River Forest high school girls basketball teams will always share a rivalry. In terms of results, however, it’s been all Friars in recent years.
Fenwick defeated visiting OPRF 60-49 last Thursday, giving the Friars their 12th victory in the last 13 meetings against the Huskies.
“It’s a real nice win for us,” Fenwick coach Dave Power said. “We lost a heartbreaker [60-50] to them last season when we lost All-State guard Jade Owens in like the first minute of the game. It’s nice to get the cross-town win back on the Fenwick side.”
Despite three starters having at least two fouls by halftime, the Friars managed a 30-22 advantage at the break.
“We were in foul trouble in the first half, which kind of slowed us down,” Power said. “Oak Park takes the ball to the hole strong. They have much more size than us, so we knew we were going to pick up some fouls. I was really impressed with our team holding the fort and establishing a nice little cushion at halftime.
“Different girls stepped up for us. The girls coming off the bench do a nice job for us. We’ve been successful by committee. We’re playing better team basketball.”
Fenwick, which extended the lead to 42-28 after three quarters, led by as many as 18 points late in the fourth quarter before the Huskies rallied in the closing minutes.
Kiki Sheard scored a game-high 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Friars. Deja Cage (14 points), Jenny Mackowiak (nine points, eight rebounds) and Jess Moriarty (six points, three rebounds) also contributed. Elle Schaefer turned in a solid all-around performance with six points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for Fenwick.
After a slow start, Fenwick (11-13) has won 7 of 9 games.
“We just started playing as a team and encouraging each other to play well,” Sheard said about the Friars’ turnaround. “Whether it’s scoring, rebounding or just hustling, everybody is contributing.”
Promising freshman Maeve Nelson led the Huskies with 10 points and five rebounds. Senior forward Emily Schreck finished with 10 points, while Katie Mullins scored eight points and Maria Kent had five points and four rebounds.
Neither team shot well as Fenwick made 22-of-59 shots and OPRF converted just 15-of-59 field goal attempts. The Friars held advantages in rebounds (38-32) and assists (11-9).
“We didn’t shoot as well as we could have,” Nelson said. “Everyone wants to beat Fenwick; it’s a hometown thing. Winning was definitely part of the plan, but at least we have some things to work on. There’s always next year.”
With younger players like Nelson, Kent, Chardonnay Harris, Blair Ripley and Molly Cullinane, the future looks bright for coach J.P. Coughlin and the Huskies. For the duration of this season, however, seniors like Hailey Hoye, Victoria Waters and Schreck likely hold the key to any late-season surge.
“We really need to trust our seniors,” said Harris, a sophomore. “If we continue to look up to them and believe in what they are saying, I think we can really go a long way.
“When we have the right people in the game, we do well. I think we’re still finding out those combinations, which players work best together.”
Nelson added: “At the beginning of the season, we were a little bumpy but we have come back. We have a lot of really talented players. I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”
Fenwick and OPRF are both in action on Saturday, with the Friars hosting St. Viator at 2:30 p.m. while the Huskies travel to Downers Grove North for a 4 p.m. tipoff.