OPRF’s Max Johnson (far left) goes in for a layup over a Fenwick defender during the teams’ crosstown clash at the Chicago Elite Classic basketball tournament at Credit One Arena in Chicago on Dec. 2. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

It would’ve been easy for the Fenwick High School boys basketball team to fold when neighborhood rival Oak Park and River Forest High School made a late charge at the Chicago Elite Classic on Dec. 2 to tie the score.

But Ty Macariola refused to let that happen, hitting the next six points to help give the Friars a 64-60 victory at Credit One Arena on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

“We had to trust each other,” said Macariola, a sophomore guard who had a game-high 20 points. “We work hard every single day, and I just knew we would pull through.”

Fenwick (4-3) started strong and took a 39-25 halftime lead and kept the 14-point margin into the fourth quarter, leading 53-39.

But OPRF (3-3) erupted for a 17-6 run and tied things up at 56-56 with 2:05 to go on a 3-pointer by junior Jaziah Harper.

“Jaziah is coming along quicker than we thought,” said OPRF coach Phil Gary. “He hit some big shots.”

That’s when Macariola went to work. His three consecutive baskets in a 90-second span gave Fenwick a 62-56 lead.

“We feed off the crowd,” said Fenwick coach Tony Young. “We have to embrace the energy and noise because they can go either way. It’s important to have poise and clear heads [in those situations].”

However, the Huskies refused to go away. A basket by Justin Bowen (16 points) followed by a steal and basket by Christian Marshall brought OPRF to within 2 points with 10 seconds remaining. 

“Justin played really well,” Gary said. “He’s still getting adjusted to the rhythm of the program, but I thought he made his announcement on the big stage.”

But after the Huskies’ last timeout, Fenwick’s Darshan Thomas (18 points) broke free on the ensuing possession for a game-clinching layup.

“I love the way our guys fought back in the fourth quarter,” Gary said. “We just couldn’t pull it out at the end.”

It was the Friars’ third game in four nights, and Young credited the victory to his deep bench. 

“We’ve got strength in numbers,” he said. “We can go nine or 10 deep and not lose a lot. We locked in mentally at the end.”

Early foul trouble for OPRF big man Alex Vincent hurt the Huskies in the paint, particularly in the first half.

“Alex is super big, and anytime he gets into foul trouble, it hurts our rebounding,” Gary said. “That’s when Fenwick went on a run; we lacked size while he was out.”

For OPRF, Rodney Murphy matched Bowen for scoring honors with 16 points, while Max Johnson added 15 points.

“We’ve got to play four quarters,” Gary said. “We can’t take a possession off. We have a young group, so that’s a good learning experience for them going forward. I love our group, and we’ll keep working.”

The Chicago Elite Classic win capped a solid week for Fenwick. On Nov. 29, Damion Porter Jr’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Friars a 53-52 victory over visiting Rich Township.

On Dec. 1, Fenwick dropped its Chicago Catholic League Blue opener at De La Salle 56-49. Sophomore Dominick Ducree had 13 points, Porter 11 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Connor Fitzgerald added nine points off the bench.

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