This Is Our Town

Following the Fenwick Boys’ Basketball Team’s departure from the IHSA tournament after an 83-70 loss to Proviso East in the 4A Regional Final last March, waves of change flooded the program.

After an impressive career coaching Illinois high school basketball, which most recently included five years at the helms of the Friar Basketball team, Head Coach Rick Malnati announced that he was stepping aside from the game he loved due to his health status. Malnati’s retirement cleared the way for long time Fenwick assistant and faculty member Staunton Peck to be given the reins to lead this historic program.

Now, a coaching transition had already made the offseason hard, but the additional departures of former Fenwick standouts D.J. Steward and Damari Nixon to Chicago Public School powerhouse’s Whitney Young and Curie, only made it more difficult. Nonetheless, the Friars were not phased but rather excited for their 2018-2019 campaign with matchups against notables such as Peoria-Manual, Whitney Young and Simeon, while also playing some fan favorites in Saint Ignatius, Benet, and crosstown rival OPRF.

It has been an up and down season for the first year of the Peck era on 505 Washington Boulevard. Early on in November, this veteran team suffered a rough home loss to the Benet Redwings by a final score of 65-46 to a packed house in the John Malone Thanksgiving Tournament.

The Friars had over a week between their loss to Benet and arguably their biggest game of the regular season against bitter rival Oak Park-River Forest in the highly regarded Chicago Elite Classic at DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena in downtown Chicago. Senior Charlie Westerman commented about his team’s approach and mentality during this break, “Whenever you lose, you just wanna play the next day; we had to wait eight days. The positive in that was that we had a ton of time to scout OPRF, and that paid off.” Fenwick defeated the Huskies of Oak Park-River Forest on a stunningbuzzer-beater by Bryce Hopkins, which gave the Friars their seventh win over their crosstown rivals in eight years.

Friar Nation has never shied away from supporting Fenwick athletics, and this especially held true after this Chicago Elite Classic victory. Fenwick Seniors began selling t-shirts that featured the famous “This Is Our Town” phrasing on the front and a depiction of the scoreboard showing the 66-65 final score on the back as a friendly reminder to our fellow students down the street.

After the Oak Park game, the Friars had a successful campaign playing and winning several regular season games, while also winning a fourth place title at the highly regarded and competitive Proviso West Tournament after defeating previously undefeated Dunbar and Hillcrest.

The week of February 2nd featured three highly regarded teams visiting the fieldhouse. On February 2nd, the Friars dropped a close one to Riverside-Brookfield by a final score of 64-61. Then, on February 8th, the Friars fought but ultimately fell to Depaul Prep, which was ranked 17th, with a final score of 66-56.

However, the next day, Fenwick defeated Saint Laurence, ranked 12th, with a final score of of 76-64. Over these three games, Sophomore Bryce Hopkins finished with 79 points, and Senior Solomon Oraegbu topped out at 38.

The Friars have their annual Senior Night on February 19th against Taft, and they finish the season with an away game against rival Saint Ignatius.