The battle for high school boys basketball supremacy in Oak Park took place once again at the Sixth Annual Chicago Elite Classic hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday.
Fenwick, which had defeated Oak Park and River Forest the previous five games, was looking to make it six straight wins in the rivalry.
The Huskies’ depth and speed proved to be too much for Fenwick as OPRF held the lead the entire game en route to a 64-59 win.
“We have guys on the team that know the feeling of losing to Fenwick last year,” OPRF senior guard Isaiah Fuller said. “There was a lot of trash talking going on. We were not going to let them make it six years straight.”
Fuller opened the game with a deep 3-pointer, eliciting plenty of cheers from the OPRF fans. After Fenwick junior guard Damari Nixon put the Friars on the board with a smooth baseline floater, OPRF junior forward Charlie Hoehne buried a three.
The Huskies’ hot start continued at they built their largest lead of the game at 17-9.
“OPRF came out shooting the ball really well which opened up driving lanes for them,” Fenwick senior swingman Billy Bruce said. “They made the plays they needed to make to win and we didn’t get enough stops down the stretch.
Trailing the Huskies 22-16, Fenwick senior AJ Nixon and sophomore DJ Steward kept the Friars close after each hitting a 3-pointer.
Leading 25-22 at the six-minute mark of the second quarter, the Huskies quickly extended the lead to 29-22 with a bucket in transition from senior Malachi Ross.
Fenwick’s Nixon-duo of Damari and AJ put together five points to keep the Friars close.
OPRF led 35-30 at halftime.
Fuller and Steward dueled in the opening few minutes of the second half. Fuller (19 points, 6 rebounds) scored or assisted on the Huskies’ opening three baskets, while Steward scored the Friars’ first six points.
Damari Nixon got to the rim with ease for a bucket and the foul, cutting the Huskies’ advantage to 44-43.
OPRF led 51-45 at the end of the third quarter.
The Friars came out strong in the fourth quarter. Baskets from senior Mike O’Laughlin and AJ Nixon whittled the Huskies’ lead to 51-49.
Trailing 59-51 with 2:20 left, the Friars produced one final rally. After an Enoch missed free throw, Daniels finished a tough left-handed layup with 1:10 remaining to make the score 59-56.
With the score 62-58 in favor of OPRF with :13 seconds remaining, Damari Nixon hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it a one possession game at 62-59. With 5.4 seconds left. Fenwick tried to get a steal, but watched Enoch score a wide open layup to close it out.
Damari Nixon (18 points), Steward (13 points), Mike O’Laughlin (9 points) and AJ Nixon (8 points) played well for Fenwick (4-3).
“It was an unforgettable experience,” Bruce said. “Oak Park is a special town for high school hoops. Despite this tough loss, it will serve as motivation the rest of the season.
“This is a learning experience for us and a great game to have under our belts. If we want to accomplish our goals this year, we’ll need a defensive mentality.”