Fenwick Friar Nathaniel Marshall (#23) dribble’s past Payton Prep on Feb. 24, 2023. | Sara Janz

Fenwick High School sophomore Nate Marshall is one of Illinois top football prospects in the Class of 2025, already having received several major college offers.

He’s also an important part of the boys basketball team, but missed most of this year due to injury. 

However, his recent return has given the Friars a spark, one that was evident during a 70-47 victory over visiting Payton College Prep on Feb. 24 in the IHSA Class 3A Fenwick Regional title game.

“It feels great to be back,” said Marshall, who scored 15 points. “We played hard, but I also feel we can play harder.”

Caleb Burgins hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter, then Dominick Ducree nailed a three in the closing seconds of the first half to provide the Friars (20-12) a huge boost.

“We just stuck with the game plan, and I feel that since we’re so young, we can have a lot of energy,” said sophomore D.J. Porter, who had a game-high 17 points.

Fenwick coach Tony Young was especially pleased with his team’s ball handling as the Friars committed just five turnovers.

“I thought we played well together,” he said. “It’s one game at a time and every game is a business trip, so we’ve got to keep working.”

Darshan Thomas added 10 points and eight rebounds for Fenwick, which advanced to the IHSA Class 3A De La Salle Sectional semifinals. The Friars faced the host Meteors, a 65-38 winner over Schurz in a regional final, on Feb. 28, after Wednesday Journal’s print deadline.

De La Salle defeated the short-handed Friars during the regular season, 56-49 on Dec. 1. But Young wants to find out how his now fully healthy team fares in the rematch.

“It’s always good to see a conference team in the playoffs, because you know it’s going to be a good game,” he said. “As long as everyone continues to do his part, execute, share the ball and leave it all on the court, we’ll always have a shot.”

Lincoln Park ends OPRF’s postseason

The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball team lost eight games by five points or less during the regular season.

Against visiting Lincoln Park on Feb. 22 in an IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal, the Huskies once again were competitive, but couldn’t get over the hump in a season-ending 62-60 defeat. OPRF ended the season with seven consecutive losses.

“It’s the same thing that’s happened for us all year, late missed free throws and turnovers,” said OPRF coach Phil Gary. “We still had a chance to win, but it was another close game we couldn’t finish.”

Sophomore Justin Bowen and juniors Jaziah Harper and Max Johnson all had 17 points apiece for the Huskies (9-19).

“Jaziah had a breakout game with a couple of dunks,” Gary said. “He really showed us a lot from start to finish this year. Max and Justin also had good games.”

When healthy, Johnson and senior Christian Marshall made for a good backcourt. Unfortunately, they were together for just seven games this year as each battled injuries.

“We didn’t get to see them together a lot, which was hurtful,” Gary said. 

OPRF loses five players to graduation, including Marshall, Rodney Murphy and Paul Kitch. But, Bowen, Harper and Johnson return next year along with three other key contributors in junior Mehki Austin and sophomores Alex Gossett and Alex Vincent.

“I told them to remember this moment,” said Gary. “Remember how the seniors were in tears, because you don’t want it to happen to you next year. We’ve got to go forward and, hopefully, we’ll learn from this season and turn these close losses into wins.”

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