The Fenwick High School basketball team enters the postseason on an 11-game winning streak with a Chicago Catholic League championship in tow. The Friars (25-4) are the top seed in their own sectional and a legitimate contender to win the Class 3A state championship.
Under coach Rick Malnati, Fenwick hopes to go Peoria for the first time since the Corey Maggette-led Friars in 1998.
Fenwick is led by senior point guard Jacob Keller, who has carried over his stellar play as quarterback on the Friars’ state semifinalist squad to the hardwood. Although he’s been battling a foot injury the second half of the season, Keller makes the right decisions with the basketball and gets his teammates involved. He’s also a capable scorer, prolific dunker and solid defender. Jamal Nixon, a 6-5 senior who has signed with Minnesota State, is the Friars’ other top star and leader. He’s a load in the paint that can score in a variety of ways. Junior forward Mike O’Laughlin, another football standout, has helped Nixon in the paint at both ends of the floor.
Freshman DJ Steward has been particularly impressive as a highly touted newcomer. He’s poised and has star potential as long as he keeps working to improve his game.
AJ Nixon, Billy Bruce and Sam Daniels have made steady contributions as well.
Fenwick has had a rugged schedule with close losses to Benet, Uplift, Whitney Young and Simeon.
While hosting a sectional doesn’t mean automatic advancement deep into the state tournament, the Friars appear positioned well for a deep postseason run.
Fenwick crushed DRW-Trading 64-28 in a semifinal of the King Regional. The Friars face the regional host Jaguars Friday, March 3 at 7 p.m. If Fenwick wins Friday, the team advances to its own sectional.