OPRF defends the net on Monday, Nov. 21, during a varsity basketball game against Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. | Alex Rogals

Entering his third season, Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball coach Phil Gary is feeling optimistic despite the Huskies dropping their season opener to Plainfield North 63-58 in double overtime at the Wheaton Academy Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 21.

Senior Rodney Murphy had a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Mehki Austin scored 13 points and junior Max Johnson added 11.

“We have a lot of young guys that are hungry,” he said. “We should have more balance on offense and want to press more on defense.”

OPRF’s Micah Moore (31) shoots the ball on Monday, Nov. 21, during a varsity basketball game against Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. | Alex Rogals

The Huskies, who went 16-11 last year and lost 67-62 in an IHSA Class 4A regional final to Riverside-Brookfield, return three players who saw significant playing time in Murphy, Johnson and senior Christian Marshall. OPRF also has a trio of sophomores looking to make an impact in Alex Gossett, Alex Vincent and Justin Bowen, a transfer from Lincoln Park who’s one of the state’s top prospects in his class.

Huskies have a challenging schedule and a change at the front end, competing in the Wheaton Thanksgiving Tournament instead of the one at Riverside-Brookfield High School.

“Riverside-Brookfield is a pretty good tournament, but we wanted to go find a tournament that helps our young guys,” Gary said.

Other notable non-conference games are with rival Fenwick on Dec. 2 in the Chicago Elite Classic at Credit One Arena on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Loyola Academy and Evanston Township.

The Huskies will again take part in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and meet Hyde Park in the Metea Valley MLK Classic on Jan. 16.

With defending Class 4A state champion Glenbard West having graduated all five starters and several top reserves, the West Suburban Conference Silver Division appears to be a wide-open affair this year. Gary anticipates OPRF vying for the WSC Silver title.

“The more we grow as a team, the better our chances will be,” he said.

The Huskies meet the Wheaton Academy Warriors on Nov. 23 and Bartlett on Nov. 25, with the final opponent in the Thanksgiving tournament for Nov. 26 to be determined.

Young Fenwick squad in rebuild mode

The Fenwick High School boys basketball team lost its season opener Nov. 21 to Neuqua Valley 46-42 at the Hoops 4 Healing Tournament in Oswego, but second-year coach Tony Young likes the direction the Fenwick High School boys basketball team is going in, even though there are plenty of newcomers.

“The amount of work they’ve put in, the energy, and the attitude have been great so far,” he said of the Friars, who were 9-18 last season and won the IHSA Class 3A Prosser Regional. “I have three guys that played [on varsity] last year, but no one else has. It’s about teaching the young guys how to play on the varsity level.”

Those three returning players are all sophomores: guard Ty Macariola, forward Nate Marshall (whose debut will be delayed due to the football team reaching the Chicago Prep Bowl final) and guard Damion Porter Jr.

But Young is optimistic about the Friars’ young talent. Several players from the lower levels of the program, which combined for a 75-6 record last winter, are on the varsity squad, including sophomores J.T. Pettigrew and Zion Young (Tony’s son) and junior Darshan Thomas.

“They have experience winning, but they have to get used to the speed, physicality, and demands of playing varsity,” Young said. “We’ve got some decent size, it’s just a matter of putting it together and getting guys adjusted.”

Fenwick has another challenging schedule this season, participating in the Hoops 4 Healing Tournament and the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Other non-conference highlights are games against OPRF at the Chicago Elite Classic, Riverside-Brookfield, Orr and Rich Township.

Brother Rice, DePaul Prep and St. Rita are this year’s top contenders in the Chicago Catholic League.

“We’ve got to win more games than we did last year,” said Young. “Every month when we evaluate the team, we should be doing things better. Come February, we want to be at our peak, and that’s got to be the goal both individually and as a team.”

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