The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls basketball team has a nice mix of talented veterans and promising newcomers this season. The key to the Huskies’ success might be just keeping them all together on the court. After a few injury-riddled seasons, OPRF enters this season relatively healthy and ready to go.

Junior forward Blair Ripley and 5-10 sophomore guard Maeve Nelson return as team leaders who can impact a game on both ends of the floor. The 6-1 Ripley averaged 10 points and eight rebounds last season, while Nelson turned in a terrific freshman campaign averaging seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals per game.

“I feel that Ripley and Nelson are two of the top defenders in the area,” coach J.P. Coughlin said. “Ripley had an awesome summer and is getting a lot of DI interest. I really expect Ripley to have a monster year offensively as soon as she is healthy. She is questionable for the Trinity tournament with a foot injury. Maeve’s shot is really coming along and she’s just a very good al-around player.”

While Nelson can play multiple positions, junior Molly Cullinane will play point guard.

“Cullinane is an excellent distributor,” Coughlin said. “She will be crucial in organizing our very young players.”

According to Coughlin, senior captain Peyton Schafer is another team leader with a basketball IQ off the charts.

Senior guards Madison Siler and Michaela Thornton are the team’s best outside shooters, while another senior, 5-10 forward Crystal Corr, is welcomed back into the rotation after missing last season due to ACL surgery.

“Crystal has bounced back really well,” Coughlin said. “She fits in really well with what we want to do both offensively and defensively.”

In terms of underclassmen, OPRF boasts several good ones on the roster. 5-10 sophomore forwards Carrington McGowan and Amaya Coleman and freshmen guards Ahsha Spencer and Darse Sanchez should all make an immediate impact.

“Carrington and Amaya are very strong and athletic players who have shown a tremendous work ethic,” Coughlin said. “Ahsha and Darse have a lot of ability and desire. Both will get plenty of playing time early on and will be challenged as we have no easy games in 2015.”

Coughlin is certainly right about the Huskies’ difficult schedule. A combination of competing in several high-end tournaments and the perennially tough West Suburban Conference Silver Division ensures OPRF will be tested on a regular basis.

“I’d argue that the Trinity tournament is the best Thanksgiving tournament in the state,” Coughlin said. “Montini is one of the top Christmas tournaments in the country. And our third tournament features the defending state champ (Benet). The schedule is loaded just how we like it”

Although the Huskies are off to an 0-3 start this season, Coughlin is keeping the big picture in mind.

“We just want to be playing our best basketball in February,” he said. “We are a lot younger than originally expected, but our leaders have done a great job of getting the kids up to speed.

“Our bread and butter will be our defense. We will play a pack-line man-to-man defense but also mix in a series of traps and presses.”

OPRF Huskies

Head Coach: J.P. Coughlin

Record last year: 15-18; lost to Simeon 52-47 in Class 4A regional final

Top players: Blair Ripley, F/C, Junior; Maeve Nelson, G, Sophomore; Madison Siler, G, Senior; Michaela Thornton, G, Senior; Peyton Schafer, F, Senior

Quote: “I’m curious to see how we will score, but the effort and enthusiasm has never been higher than with this group.” – Coughlin

 

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...