Before freshman DJ Steward arrived at Fenwick this fall, local basketball fans may have already heard about the highly touted guard. His name is certainly more well-known after a stellar performance in the third place game of the 56th Annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
Although the Friars lost to Uplift 69-65 Dec. 30, Steward sparked a late rally with clutch long-range shooting. Trailing 56-47 with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Friars went on a 12-0 run capped off by Steward’s 3-pointer to seize a 59-56 lead with 2:47 remaining.
Uplift responded with a 12-3 spurt to regain the lead at 68-62 before Steward drained another trey to draw Fenwick within three at 68-65. A free throw by Markeese Jacobs sealed the Titan’s 69-65 victory.
“DJ had a really good game,” Fenwick coach Rick Malnati said. “He did a lot of nice things and earned himself an opportunity to potentially start.”
Senior swingman Jamal Nixon had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and junior guard AJ Nixon finished with 14 points for Fenwick. Jacob Keller (5 points, 3 steals, 3 blocks) and Sam Daniels (5 points) also contributed.
Keller earned second-team all-tournament honors.
In the semifinals, the Friars lost another close game Dec. 29, 57-52 to Whitney Young. Keller led Fenwick with 17 points, three rebounds and three steals. Nixon scored 13 points and pulled down a team-best eight rebounds.
After a close first half, the Dolphins outscored Fenwick 19-10 in the third quarter en route to victory.
“We just did some things that were uncharacteristic of ourselves in the last two games of the tournament,” Malnati said. “This is a great group. We’ll practice more and keep getting better.”
Whitney Young defeated Morgan Park 80-71 in the championship game as tournament MVP Lucas Williamson scored 27 points for the victors. The Dolphins have won the Proviso West Holiday Tournament five times (2001, 2002, 2007, 2009, 2016).
Fenwick (10-3, 3-0 Chicago Catholic League North), which finished second at the prestigious tournament last year, won its first two games this season at Proviso West in comfortable fashion.
Fenwick routed Providence-St. Mel 60-31 as Keller had 11 points and four steals and AJ Nixon added 10 points and four boards.
In their best performance at the tournament, the Friars rocked Bogan 77-46 in the second round Dec. 28. Junior guard Billy Bruce (14 points), Steward (12 points), Keller (5 points, 10 assists, 3 steals) and Jamal Nixon (6 rebounds) powered a balanced attack.
Fenwick shot 54 percent from the field and scored 32 points in the paint.
“Overall, we did well at this tournament. There are twelve other teams from the tournament that would want to be in our position and take fourth place,” Malnati said. “We had a chance to do better, however, and you don’t get opportunities like that all the time.”
The Friars host a pair of games this weekend, Friday vs. Montini (Jan. 6) and Saturday vs. Proviso East (Jan. 7). Tip-off is 7 p.m. for both games.