By Melvin Tate
Rivalry games typically aren't decided until the closing minutes or even seconds. But that wasn't the case on Dec. 3 at Oak Park and River Forest High School when the Huskies hosted Trinity in a non-conference girls basketball showdown.
OPRF's Lilah Gery scored the game's first two points, but Trinity outscored the Huskies 17-1 the rest of the first quarter and gradually pulled away for a 66-30 victory.
"[The fast start] was super important," said Trinity head coach Kim Coleman. "I thought we did a really good job of setting the tempo, and the girls were hungry and ready to play."
While Coleman was pleased with how the Blazers came out of the gate, OPRF head coach JP Coughlin expressed disappointment with how the Huskies fared while also acknowledging Trinity's effort.
"This was our worst game of the season all-around," he said. "We have struggled shooting all year. We also turned the ball over way too many times and gave up too many baskets in the paint. But give Trinity credit for that. They get better every time I see them, and they are going to be a handful this season."
One reason for Trinity's strong start is Makiyah Williams. One of the state's top players in the Class of 2021, she led the Blazers with 20 points and 7 rebounds against OPRF.
"Makiyah did a really good job of sharing the basketball and putting her teammates in position to be successful," Coleman said. "We know she can score on every possession if she wanted to, but we challenge her to make her teammates better, and the result is us being a better team."
Williams wasn't the only Blazer to do damage as the other half of the M&M Duo, junior guard Maddie Miller, also had a nice evening with 13 points, displaying a strong all-around effort.
"Makiyah and Maddie have really good chemistry," said Coleman. "They play travel ball together and trust each other. They're definitely our leaders on the floor."
Cierra Richardson contributed 10 points off the bench, Arianna Raimonde had 8 points, and Lauren Saleh added 5 points and 9 rebounds in the winning effort.
For OPRF, Gery finished the night with a team-high 11 points and added 7 rebounds. Molly Heflin added 9 points on three 3-pointers and Karly Cantrell had 14 rebounds for the Huskies.
"Karly is averaging 16 rebounds a game for us. She works so hard," Coughlin said. "Lilah is coming along nicely; she has a tremendous work ethic and has one of the highest qualities of character of any player I've ever coached."
The Blazers' strong season start continued Dec. 5 with a 57-37 victory at De La Salle. Williams tallied 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Miller had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Savanna Childress added 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Coleman believes last season's struggles have ignited a hunger in the Blazers, who are off to a 6-1 start.
"I think it's them being hungry. They were disappointed with how things ended last year," said Coleman. "They've set high expectations for themselves both individually and as a team, and they want to win."
The Blazers also realize they need to keep working as the season gets progressively more difficult, and Coleman is counting on more of the hunger displayed by the team.
"Hopefully, we keep grinding," she said. "We're playing well, but there are things we have to clean up in practice. We've got a big game with Fenwick, and we've got to get ready."
On Dec. 7, OPRF (1-6) fell to visiting Downers Grove North High School 41-27. Alla Anderson led the Huskies with a career-high 15 points, while Tatym Coe added 11 points and Cantrell 14 rebounds. OPRF has several first-year varsity players and consequently has struggled to develop rhythm on both ends of the court. But Coughlin feels the strong unity among the players will ultimately help fuel a season turnaround.
"We have a long way to go here and we'll continue to coach them up, work on our weaknesses, strengthen our strengths, and continue to grow as a team," said Coughlin. "We have a really tough upcoming schedule so things won't get easier, but our girls are up for the challenge."
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