Huskies earn win, bragging rights over Friars

Spencer scores 26 for OPRF; Moore (31 points) & Blaze (17 points, 21 rebounds) lead Fenwick

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

No matter which sport it is, whenever Fenwick High School and Oak Park and River Forest High School compete against each other, a highly competitive game or match is usually the result. The Friars and Huskies bring out the best in each other, and Thursday night's girls basketball game was no different as OPRF prevailed 77-71 in the latest installment of the compelling crosstown rivalry.

"It's always a great rivalry, and it's always a fun game," Fenwick coach Dave Power said. "OPRF is a very nice team this year. They're very physical and athletic."

Junior guard Ahsha Spencer led the way for the Huskies with a team-high 26 points, including 22 in the second half. 

"We played hard and had fun," Spencer said. "When we have fun and play together, we win games. I loved the way we played tonight. If we keep like this, we'll be real good."

OPRF senior guard Maeve Nelson, returning from an injury that caused her to miss all of last season, added 20 points. Nelson, a Northwestern softball signee, admitted that she's still working her way back into basketball shape. Nevertheless, she's pleased to be back on the court.

"It feels great," Nelson said. "I'm more of a hustle player than skillful and basketball is about hustle. In basketball you get to display your athletic ability more than you do in softball. We were excited to play this game. Everybody contributed and it was a good win."

Fenwick opened the game with an 11-3 run as Kate Moore and McKenzie Blaze flashed their dominance early on for the Friars. OPRF showed resilience and outscored Fenwick 16-4 the rest of the first quarter to take a 19-15 lead. 

The Friars went on an 8-0 run at the start of the second quarter to reclaim the lead 23-19, but the Huskies were able to stay close and forged a 38-38 tie at halftime. 

OPRF went on a 8-0 run of its own early in the second half and added a 7-0 spurt late as the Huskies opened up a 62-57 advantage after three quarters. Nelson and Spencer each scored nine points during the stanza. 

After a relatively quiet third quarter, Moore heated up again for the Friars, scoring 10 of her game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter.

"Moore played out of her mind just like we predicted she would," OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin said. "I thought it was going to be a struggle against Fenwick. We just kept grinding."

Fenwick closed to within three points a couple of times, but Spencer's 12 points helped ensure that the Huskies stayed ahead.

"We got a little cold in the third quarter but came back strong in the fourth," Power said. "We had a hard time stopping (Spencer), but they had trouble stopping Moore.

"Kate had a phenomenal game and I thought our girls played hard. I loved the way they never quit and we had a chance to pull it out at the end. That's all you can ask for."

In addition to Moore, Blaze turned in a superb performance with 17 points and 21 rebounds. Promising sophomore Lily Reardon chipped in eight points.

Injury-free Huskies could be formidable

For the Huskies, simply being healthy is already an early Christmas gift. The return of not only Nelson but Carrington McGowan from injuries last year has fortified and lengthened the lineup.

"Having Maeve back helps," Coughlin said. "And Ahsha, Amaya (Coleman), and Darse (Sanchez) took some lumps last year and decided they weren't satisfied with that. They kept going and going. We've got a great group of girls."

Both Nelson and Spencer expressed delight about defeating the Friars. 

"Coach told us in practice this week that we hadn't beaten Fenwick in a while," Nelson said. "We all brought our 'A' Game, including the bench players."

"It's always fun and competitive (playing the Friars)," Spencer added. "Both teams take the game very seriously and nobody likes to lose.

"We need to keep working hard in practice. We need to remain disciplined and keep working together. If we do those things, we're going to win."

Other notable contributors in the Huskies' win included senior guard Joi Holman with 11 points (highlighted by a Stephen Curry-like, pull-up jumper from at least 25 feet that was nothing but net) and Sanchez with 10.

Fenwick lost its second game in three days to crosstown rivals. On Nov. 28, Trinity topped Fenwick 63-50. Under the leadership of a veteran coach like Power and an excellent coaching staff, the Friars anticipate a turnaround soon. Power believes his team is close breaking out of its early slump.

"We need to work a little bit more on the defensive end," he said. "We get a few stops, we could've pulled this game out. Unforced turnovers also hurt us. We get a key rebound, we cough it up and they score. Turnovers were a huge difference. If we can take care of the ball and cut down on the turnovers, I think we'll be all right."

Meanwhile, the Huskies (5-1) hope to build off their strong start. With plenty of basketball left this season, the key to sustaining the early success is hard work and dedication. 

Prior to its win against Fenwick, OPRF notched a 55-45 conference win against Hinsdale Central. Holman scored 13 points with four 3-pointers, Spencer had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, and Amaya Coleman recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards.

In what Coughlin termed the most dominant 0-point game he's ever seen, Nelson went scoreless with 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals against the Red Devils.

"We still have some work to do," Coughlin said. "We'll continue to get better by working with each other. It's all about coming together as a group. If they do that, the sky's the limit. This is the best team I've had; let's see what we can do."


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