OPRF, Fenwick face off at Wintrust Arena

Senior+Justin+Cross

Holden Green

Senior Justin Cross

Josh Hedrich, Staffer

On Dec. 6, OPRF students packed DePaul’s Wintrust Arena to watch their Huskie basketball team take on Fenwick in the Chicago Elite Classic. The two rivals have faced off in the tournament since 2014, but it was just the second year in which the event was held at the Wintrust Arena; previously it was held at the UIC Pavilion. But no matter where the game is played, the fans remain loud.

Last year the game came down to the wire, with Fenwick winning by one-point on a buzzer beater by Louisville University commit Bryce Hopkins.

Considering the magnitude of the rivalry, to many, the meeting is much more than  a regular game. “My favorite part about this rivalry is being able to compete against people who I grew up with,” said senior forward Justin Cross. “Also, being able to take bragging rights is huge considering both schools are only half a mile away.”

To get his team prepared for the massive crowd at the game, head coach Matt Maloney used some interesting tactics during practice. “We are going to do some things to help prepare them,” Maloney said before the game. “A lot of noise in the gym, music blaring, and things that are going to make it difficult to concentrate and communicate, to try to simulate a hostile environment.”

The team, however, was not anxious about playing in front of a big crowd: they chose to embrace the hectic atmosphere and use it to their advantage.

When asked about his favorite part of the rivalry, senior guard Kyren Gardner simply said, “The energy, the crowd, and the atmosphere.”

Cross shared a similar perspective about playing in front of a big crowd. “The crowd actually energizes me and the team. We thrive and love playing in front of big crowds,” said Cross. “We thrive off their energy.”

Despite the hype surrounding the rivalry, Maloney treats this game as he would any other. “We prepare the same way we would for every other opponent,” Maloney said. “I don’t see this game as any bigger than the rest, because we should be treating every game like it’s our last… It doesn’t matter who we play, ultimately we are playing ourselves.”

Unfortunately for the Huskies, the game did not go as they hoped. OPRF got off to a poor start, as they fell behind early and found themselves trailing by 13 at the half. The Huskies managed to outscore Fenwick by three in the second half, but ended up losing 58-48.

The Huskies’ slow start, according to Maloney, messed up their game plan for the rest of the game. “We dug ourselves a hole, therefore it limited what we could do defensively,” Maloney said.

Despite the poor performance by the Huskies, Maloney has confidence in his team going forward. “We’ve only had twelve practices, so I don’t think this is indicative of the team you’ll be seeing,” Maloney said, “I think you’ll see a very different team in January.”

close