The players on the Fenwick High School girls basketball team really wanted to get head coach Dave Power his 900th win last season. It took 21 games to reach that goal but the Friars finally honored their coach with a 61-46 win against DePaul Prep in late January.
“I was happy that I could be a part of it,” Fenwick forward Kate Moore said after the game.
Overall, the Friars had a tough season last year finishing 10-21 (21 losses are the most by a Power-coached team in his four-decade career).
This season, Fenwick is off to a more promising 6-1 start. It’s particularly encouraging considering the Friars were sub-.500 the previous three seasons.
The Friars cruised past rival OPRF 67-43 last week after opening the season with five comfortable wins to claim the Niles North tournament title.
“I think we were expecting a good season, but 6-1 is an awesome start,” Moore said. “Last year was a good season for us to develop. We gained experience and grew together as a team. I think we have more unity on the court and everybody is contributing to our success.”
Fenwick methodically built a 35-25 halftime lead against OPRF with a balanced offensive attack. Moore scored 10 points, freshman forward Katie Schneider had nine and senior center Kelly Carpenter chipped in six. Schneider and Carpenter were particularly effective scoring inside or in transition.
Senior forward Blair Ripley led OPRF with nine points in the first half to keep OPRF within striking distance; however, she also picked up three fouls. With frontline starters Maeve Nelson and Carrington McGowan out for the season with injuries, the Huskies can’t afford to have Ripley in foul trouble.
Nevertheless, the teams essentially traded baskets in the third quarter with Fenwick building a 51-39 lead.
The Friars put OPRF away with a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter. Moore scored six points while Chance Baggett and McKenzie Blaze added a basket apiece, extending the Fenwick lead to 61-41 with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter. Fenwick outscored the Huskies 16-4 in the fourth quarter.
“Fenwick kicked our butt. They are just a better team than us right now,” OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin said. “I actually thought we played well in the first half. We just couldn’t get shots to fall and they picked us apart in the second half.
“Dave [Power] has them running on all cylinders. You knew Fenwick wouldn’t be down for long.”
Moore scored a game-high 22 points, with support from Schneider (11 points). Baggett and Blaze contributed ten points apiece.
“We were looking forward to this game because it’s such a big rivalry,” Schneider said. “We’re off to a great start. We really feel like this season can be a turning point for getting Fenwick girls basketball back on track.”
Ripley finished with 11 points and senior point guard Molly Cullinane scored 10 for OPRF. Junior forward Grace Underhill played well off the bench with five points on two straight possessions in the second half.
With a game Thursday, Dec. 8 at their other local rival, Trinity (6 p.m.), the Huskies are off to a 3-4 start this winter.
OPRF lost its conference opener to Hinsdale Central 58-48 on Nov. 29. Ripley led the Huskies with 15 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Amaya Coleman contributed 12 points, six rebounds and two steals.
The Huskies shot just 3-for-17 on 3-pointers and committed 17 turnovers with only 10 assists.
“We’re learning on the fly,” Coughlin said. “I’m looking forward to us having a good week of practice before the Trinity game. Our kids are playing hard. We’re going to get knocked down sometimes, but we just have to get back up and keep improving.”
While Ripley and Cullinane are proven starters, the development of younger players like sophomores Ahsha Spencer, Darse Sanchez and Katie Sisler is critical.