Five Years in the Making


Players look on as senior Malachi Ross plays lockdown defense on a Fenwick player.

With five seconds left on the clock, as the noise in the UIC pavilion crescendoed, junior Dashon Enoch made an uncontested layup. It was a heady experience: “I just knew the game was over, and we won, so I was just ready to celebrate,” he said.

A few moments later, OPRF boys’ basketball had beaten Fenwick for the first time in five years at the sixth annual Chicago Elite Classic, an achievement the team (and Dog Pound) took to heart. Although the game was up in the air for all 32 minutes, OPRF never trailed and pulled away to win 64-59.

Senior Isaiah Fuller, a three year varsity starter, approached the game differently than others. “The rivalry made the game more personal,” he said. “The Dog Pound also helped the rivalry because they are just as into the game as the players.”

The week preceding the UIC matchup was as full of trash talk as any other big game against Fenwick. Constant announcements and text reminders urged students to attend the game. OPRF didn’t disappoint.

I just knew the game was over, and we won, so I was just ready to celebrate.”

— Dashon Enoch

Like past years, the Fenwick student section came to the UIC Pavilion decked out in a Christmas theme, while OPRF’s crowd was a block of orange. The Dog Pound was a constant presence throughout the game, something the team was grateful for. “The crowd was amazing. It helped get in the other team’s head and helped us get hyped,” Fuller said. “The energy was outstanding.”

Junior Charlie Hoehne felt reassured by the strong student presence. “It felt like we had the entire school was there, and they had our backs.”

Head coach Matt Maloney agreed: “The crowd showcased the greatest student body in the state. We truly want to thank the Dog Pound for all their energy and support.”

Although the crowd added energy, the team needed no help giving a stellar performance. They received scoring contributions from eight players. The first points of the game, a three point shot by Fuller, set the Dog Pound alight with flying newspapers and deafening noise. “Just watching it go in gave me more confidence for the next shot,” he said.

Fuller’s self-assuredness was evident: he was the top scorer for both teams with 19 points and six assists. But his performance came as no surprise. “I come to every game wanting to be the leader. Not just in scoring, but through my body language and by being a vocal leader,” he said.

In the rivalry with Fenwick, this year decisively went to OPRF. The entire basketball program went 7-1 against Fenwick.

Although the win against Fenwick was an energizing start to the season, the team is looking for more success.

Hoehne is optimistic the team’s trajectory will keep going up. “I’m feeling very confident with how we’re playing right now,” he said.

Maloney also believes he has a dynamic group of players. “We are deep at the guard position, which always helps at the high school level.  Moreover, our players have put in work since last year and have made great strides in all facets of their games.”

This year, the team’s strengths are varied, but their depth stands out. So far, seven players are receiving strong interest from colleges.

“We are super versatile,” Hoehne said. “We have a lot of guys that could come in and give us energy and good minutes.”

Enoch is excited about the changes from the team last year. “This year, we have a lot more guards and are playing faster.”

Maloney appreciates the chemistry players have. “Our players are always looking to make the extra pass,” he said. “Seniors like Trey Royal, Martinez Lenyoun, Abram Ross and Ben Pierce have been instrumental behind the scenes and getting the team prepared for our strong start.”

Fuller has concrete goals for the team. “I want to win conference again. I want to go even farther than last year. It’s my last year, and I want to end it on a high note.”