There’s no place like home.
That’s certainly the sentiment that resonated among the Fenwick High School boys basketball players- particularly the team’s seven seniors- after Friday’s 70-36 win over Urban Prep in the Fenwick Regional final of the Class 3A playoffs.
“Our guys have had a lot of wins and success this season,” Fenwick coach Rick Malnati said. “I thought it was great they went out on their home floor with a regional championship.”
Fenwick (26-2, 12-1 at home) put away Urban Prep about midway through the second quarter. Leading the Lions 19-18 with 5:25 left until halftime, the Friars went on a 20-2 run to build a 39-20 lead.
“I think our 1-3-1 (zone defense) turned it around for us,” Fenwick senior guard Mike Smith said. “We got a few stops and scored some transition buckets from those stops.”
A three-point play on an inside basket plus a free throw by junior guard/forward Jamal Nixon off a post entry by senior forward Jay Militello triggered the Friars’ decisive spurt. All five starters scored during the run.
Fenwick center Charlie Boyle scored a tip-in off a Nixon shot late in the third quarter to start another outburst, 16-0, that increased the lead to 66-30 with 1:32 remaining in the game.
In the closing minutes, Fenwick emptied its bench which allowed reserve seniors Griffin Gibbons, Josh Collier and Jack Henige some memorable playing time.
“That was awesome,” senior guard Quinn Fisher said. “We have a lot of seniors this year so it was great to get everybody in the game. They have worked so hard in practice all season making us a better team so it was great.”
Militello, who started in place of junior forward Jacob Feller (missed the game due to illness), scored a career-high 16 points. He also manned the top spot of the Friars’ aforementioned 1-3-1 half-court pressure defense.
“My role on the team is to give energy,” Militello said. “That’s what Coach Malnati wants from me and I put in the effort today. I tried to crash the offensive boards and do the little things, the dirty work to get the team win.”
Smith had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Nixon contributed 11 points and five rebounds.
After outscoring its two regional opponents 160-50, the Friars are eager to face tougher competition at the Westinghouse Sectional.
“Obviously, a regional (title) is great but we all know that we have a higher goal,” Fisher said. “We just have to stay together and keep playing hard and well. If we focus on the details, I think we can make a deep run this year.”
Fenwick takes on Farragut in the semifinals Tuesday, March 8. North Lawndale and St. Joseph, the No. 2 and No. 3 sectional seeds, respectively, clash in the other semifinal on Wednesday, March 9. The sectional championship game is Friday, March 11. All three games start at 7 p.m.
“It’s a real good sectional.” Malnati said. “We’ll need to bring our A game.”