The and boys basketball teams found themselves tied late in the third quarter of the battle for bragging rights in town.
Then OPRF’s Virgil Allen stepped on the court for the first time.
The 6-foot-9 junior center quickly made his considerable presence felt. Allen broke the deadlock with a spin move in the post and later scored back-to-back baskets in the fourth quarter to help lift the Huskies to a 57-45 victory in a crowded Fenwick gym Tuesday night in Oak Park.
“He was huge,” OPRF coach Matt Maloney said.
“When I came in I had to do my job as a big man,” said Allen, who made all three of his shots. “I succeeded and we got the win. That’s all that matters right now.”
“He’s a load,” Fenwick 6-foot-5 forward Sam Ainsworth said of Allen. “I just tried to keep my hands up, but he made some nice shots.”
Darrius Williams also gave OPRF (8-1) a boost off the bench. The junior produced 6 points, which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that gave the Huskies a 41-36 advantage.
“Virgil and Darrius Williams were our MVPs tonight,” Maloney said. “Virgil comes off the bench with that offensive spark. He really put us on his shoulders at a time when we needed some buckets. We needed some energy and some guys to compete inside with Fenwick’s physical play.
“And Darrius Williams at the point-guard spot came in and gave us some real solid minutes. He hit a big 3 going into the fourth quarter and had a lot of hustle plays, and really was pretty steady.”
Sam Ainsworth scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down 9 rebounds for Fenwick (3-5). Luke Lattner added 12 points.
“It was a good game,” Ainsworth said. “They just came out on top. It wasn’t effort. We actually shot the ball pretty well, but the (22) turnovers again killed us. We’ve just got to get better from here and learn from our mistakes. ”
Gabe Levin led OPRF in scoring with 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. The senior forward made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 76 seconds as the visitors closed with an 8-0 run.
Alex Nesnidal finished with 12 points on 4 3-pointers for the winners. He made 3 in less than a minute to spark the Huskies to a 9-4 lead.
Fenwick used a 12-1 run to move in front 18-12 early in the second quarter. Lattner scored 6 and Ainsworth 4 in the surge.
OPRF followed with 10 unanswered points – with Tacourrus Mattox and Levin contributing 4 apiece – to move ahead 22-18 before the teams settled into a tie at 27 at halftime.
After Allen powered the Huskies to the lead in the second half, Fenwick remained in striking distance. The Friars pulled within 49-45 on Lattner’s pair of free throws with 4:09 remaining, but did not score again.
OPRF is 5-1 since losing Ka’Darryl Bell to an injury to his right wrist. The Bradley recruit suffered torn ligaments. He is scheduled to have his cast removed Friday, though it’s not known when he’ll return.
Whatever the case, Maloney hopes his bench can continue to produce.
“We have that sign, ‘When my time comes I will be ready,’ and there’s some guys who have really embraced that, especially with Ka’Darryl being out,” Maloney said. “Gabe’s been steady, but it seems like it’s someone else each night that comes in and kind of picks us up when we need it.”