For all of its considerable talent, the Oak Park and River Forest High School basketball team remains a work in progress after finishing 2-2 at the Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic.

“I thought we played well for two games and lacked consistency in the other two,” OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. “When we played together and with a sense of urgency, we performed up to our potential; however, we were not able to sustain a consistent effort for the entire tournament.”

After winning two of three games, the Huskies squared off against tournament host Riverside-Brookfield in the championship game.

OPRF jumped out to a 7-0 lead, courtesy of inside baskets from Jared Scott and Breshawn Wilkerson and a three-pointer from Conner Fuller.

After RBHS coach Tom McCloskey called a timeout, the Bulldogs outscored OPRF 72-45 the rest of the way.

“We started off down 7-0 but didn’t get fazed,” McCloskey said. “I thought we put four good quarters together. Our passing, scoring and defense were great. I’m just proud of the way the guys played against an awfully good team in Oak Park.”

Tournament MVP Daniko Jackson had a game-high 17 points, five assists and three steals for the Bulldogs. Jalen Clanton (13 points) and Mark Smith (12 points, 7 rebounds) also led RBHS.

Wilkerson and Fuller scored 13 points apiece for OPRF.

Fuller scored on a midrange jumper along the left baseline to tie the game at 13-all with 1:42 left in the first quarter. RBHS regained the lead for good at 16-13 on its next possession when Amari Smith nailed a three-pointer from the right wing.

Wilkerson made a shot from beyond the three-point arc at the halftime buzzer to pull the Huskies to 35-30.

In the third quarter, the Huskies threatened once more when promising freshman Dashon Enoch scored a pair of layups and Fuller added a putback basket to cap off a mini 6-2 run that made the score 45-39 with 2:21 left in the period. The Bulldogs responded with an 8-1 spurt to take a 53-40 lead into the fourth quarter.

RBHS, which went 28-4 last season and advanced to the supersectionals, looked like a well-oiled machine at times against the Huskies. By comparison, OPRF showed flashes of brilliance but not nearly enough to take down the highly touted Bulldogs.

“Obviously, this was a loaded tournament,” Maloney said. “I would be hard pressed to find a schedule that is tougher than ours in the Chicagoland area. We hope that this early competition prepares us for Pontiac, conference play and postseason action.”

OPRF must gear up again quickly with crosstown rival Fenwick on deck. The Huskies (2-2) and Friars (4-0) will play on Friday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. as the leadoff game at the Chicago Elite Classic hosted by the University of Illinois Chicago.

“Fenwick has several players returning and five players on the floor at all times that can shoot and get to the rim,” Maloney said. “We are excited to see how much we have grown from our week at RB.

“Playing at UIC is a wonderful experience. Seeing waves of orange and blue in the student section always makes me proud of the great school and student body we have at OPRF.”

The two-day event features many of the top teams and players from not only the Chicago area but the entire country. For more information, visit www.chicagoeliteclassic.com.

Join the discussion on social media!

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...