The Fenwick boys basketball team has been receiving plenty of positive attention in the first week of the season, being ranked by NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times.
But if one were to take a closer look at the Friars' roster, there are only three players with significant varsity experience — Bryce Hopkins, sophomore guard Trey Pettigrew, and senior guard Sean Walsh. The youth on the roster oozes potential but there are going to be growing pains.
Such was the case on Nov. 27 at Fenwick in the title game of the John Malone Thanksgiving Tournament. In front of a large, boisterous crowd, the Friars fell to Benet 50-42.
"Benet is a great team and very well coached," said Fenwick head coach Staunton Peck. "They are always one of the best defensive teams in the area and showed that against us. We have five sophomores in our regular rotation. Playing against a disciplined team like Benet early in the season is hard for any team, let alone a young team."
Hopkins struggled in the first half against Benet, going only 1-of-6 from the field. Yet the Friars were able to take a 24-23 lead into halftime thanks to the second-quarter scoring contributions of senior Cal Malchow (six points on two 3-pointers) and sophomore Eian Pugh (five points).
In the third quarter, Hopkins had a thunderous dunk that electrified the home crowd. But that would turn out to be his only basket of the second half as he again went 1-of-6 from the field, finishing the game with seven points and eight rebounds.
"Bryce was being guarded by a big, physical kid and every time he drove to the basket he had two or three guys on him," Peck said. "They also face-guarded him, making it hard to catch the ball. I don't care if you're Michael Jordan, it's tough to score when people do that to you. Bryce will be fine."
Fenwick took a 35-34 edge into the fourth quarter, but Benet took the lead for good with an 8-2 scoring spree in the first three minutes. Matt Reid capped the Redwings' outburst in spectacular fashion, stripping Hopkins of the ball and then going coast-to-coast for a layup and foul. The three-point play gave Benet a 42-37 advantage, and the Friars couldn't come any closer as they went nearly six minutes without a basket.
Benet's Jack Prock led all scorers with 17 points. Reid finished with 10 points and five rebounds, and Jacob Snell — the primary defender on Hopkins — added nine points and six rebounds for the Redwings (3-0).
Pettigrew led Fenwick with 10 points but fouled out down the stretch, damaging the Friars' hopes of a late rally. Max Reese added nine points and four rebounds and Pugh had eight points for the Friars (2-1).
Hopkins' rough outing against Benet came on the heels of an outstanding performance on Nov. 26 against Westinghouse, in which he poured in a career-high 44 points and added 11 rebounds in an 87-74 Friars victory. Pettigrew chipped in with 22 points, and sophomore Gabe Madej added 10 points. Devin Davis tallied 33 points for the Warriors (1-2).
Overall, Peck was pleased with how his team performed. But he also knows the season is long and there's a lot of work ahead.
"I am happy with how we played," Peck said. "We had some great performances from our young players. Every time you play in the championship game of a tournament, it is a positive. I am excited about the potential for this team as the season progresses.
Fenwick has another busy week ahead. After playing at Providence, Dec. 3 (post-deadline), the Friars will have their annual rivalry game with crosstown foe Oak Park and River Forest High in the Chicago Elite Classic, Dec. 6 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago's South Loop.