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La Grange, IL - Friday, January 4, 2013: Oak Park-River Forest's Helen Onyenso (24) backs in on Lyons Township's Ashanti Davis (23). | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Helen Onyenso is learning on the job.
The 5-foot-8 junior forward for Oak Park-River Forest is gaining more and more playing time as the season continues. The reserve has moved up the pecking order on the bench for first-year coach J.P Coughlin.
Onyenso is playing in her first varsity season after competing for the sophomore squad last year. Now she is one of the first subs off the bench for the Huskies, who snapped a skid of eight losses in nine games with a 74-40 victory over Glenbard West on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers had beat OPRF in the first meeting between the West Suburban Silver rivals, 48-47 on Dec. 4 in Glen Ellyn.
“I’m always coming off the bench, but I’m definitely a person getting more time as the season progresses,” Onyenso said.
Coughlin has been impressed by Onyenso, although overall, the Huskies have struggled to score consistently this season. While leading scorer Caroline Kelty struggled, Cuya Hall took honors with 12 points in the win over Glenbard West.
In a 60-48 loss at Lyons Friday night, the Huskies (6-12, 2-5) scored only 17 points in the second half after the game was tied at 31 at halftime. Kelty led the team with 12 points.
Onyenso scored her three points against Lyons (10-6, 3-4) in the first half after registering four points against the Hilltoppers.
But Onyenso’s primary role off the bench is not about scoring. She’s counted on to rebound and defend while gaining experience for the remainder of this season and next. Onyenso is the top junior for OPRF, which starts four seniors and sophomore guard Hailey Hoye.
“We started (the same) four last year, so it is not new to them,” Coughlin said. “I’m starting to play kids more. I’m giving an opportunity to Helen to get experience. Helen does what she does. She’s a straight-A student.”
One of Coughlin’s promising youngsters, sophomore reserve Emily Schreck, scored 10 points against Glenbard West.
Onyenso is on track to have a bright future for the Huskies.
“It’s a lot of fun (playing for coach). It’s a great team to play for and he keeps the energy high,” Onyenso said. “(Varsity) is a little bit faster pace, but I think I can handle it. All the teams are really good.”
Onyenso’s only basket against Lyons concluded an 8-0 run in the first quarter. The Huskies trimmed a 14-4 Lyons lead to 14-12, but the Huskies took their only lead of the game briefly in the second quarter.