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Oak Park-River Forest's Connor Fuller goes for the basket during Fenwick's win over its neighborhood rival. | James C. Svehla/For Sun-Times Media
Saturday night's showdown between Oak Park-River Forest and Fenwick had all the intensity of another big rivalry Friars coach Rick Malnati is well familiar with.
"I've been in the New Trier-Evanston rivalry where we've had 7,000 at Welsh-Ryan [Arena]," said Malnati, New Trier's former coach. "We were playing against the same colors [orange-and-blue]. This was well played. The kids played hard and there was a big crowd."
Saturday's standing-room-only crowd had to find open areas along the baseline and corners of the Fenwick gymnasium to catch an electrifying 51-40 nonconference win by Fenwick for neighborhood bragging rights.
Sophomore guard Mike Smith scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and the Friars (8-2) went on a 13-point run in the third quarter to decide the game. Fenwick won its fifth consecutive game while the Huskies (7-2) lost for the second time in their last three games.
"I thought the third quarter made the difference," Smith said. "Coach challenged me to do better in the third quarter. I have to pick up the team since Scott Lindsey [injury] is still not there."
OPRF's 29-27 lead in the third quarter was wiped out by a Fenwick run that included a three-point play by guard Keshaun Smith and then Mike Smith fed a wide-open Tom Planek (10 points, 13 rebounds) for a two-handed dunk that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. The dunk by the 6-foot-5 Planek gave Fenwick a 38-29 lead with 6 minutes, 26 seconds remaining.
"I had one similar last year against St. Joseph," Planek said. "That was a nice play. We knew [OPRF's] Simmie Cobbs can be extra aggressive on the wing. It was open and I got the ball back."
Cobbs (team-high 13 points, seven rebounds) ended the 13-point run with a pair of driving layups, but Fenwick held a 40-33 lead with 4:10 remaining.
"It's one of those things where we have to realize that mental energy is just as important as physical energy," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "We allowed them to get into their tempo."
Nearly two minutes after the Huskies ended Fenwick's run, things became heated when Huskies guard Erick Locke was called for an intentional foul on a Dwyer layup attempt. Locke had to be separated by his teammates from Fenwick players. He remained in he game, then Maloney picked up a technical foul 30 seconds later.
in the second half, Fenwick scored nine in a row before OPRF answered with a seven-point swing. The Huskies led 15-13 at halftime when the Friars scored only three points in the second quarter.
Jason Gant added 12 points for OPRF while Locke finished with seven.