Brooks wins OPRF Village Tournament


Calvin Roe

Brooks put an end to Julian’s “three-peat” in the tournament with their 37-33 win

Calvin Roe, Staffer

Basketball didn’t stop after Friday’s OPRF-Fenwick matchup. On Sunday Dec. 8th, the future of OPRF basketball was showcased in the field house for the OPRF Village Tournament.

This tournament, put on annually by OPRF’s boys basketball program, hosts local middle school teams. Participating middle schools include Gwendolyn Brooks, Percy Julian, Roosevelt, and St. Giles.

In attendance were members of the varsity and JV teams, along with head coach Matt Maloney. “We know most of these kids that come to our camps,” he said. “It’s good to see them at (our) school.”

Because the participating teams are from the local area, the tournament helps players get acquainted with the high school they will be playing at in the next year. Current JV center sophomore John Vincent was in this situation in 2017 when he won the Village Tournament as part of Julian. “It was just a great opportunity for all the schools to play against the kids we know and to get to know the school,” said Vincent.

In the semi-final matchups, Brooks handled Roosevelt. The game was played at 12:30 PM, giving time for them to scout and prepare Percy Julian and St. Giles, knowing their championship matchup would be against one of the two teams.

At 3:00 Percy Julian and St. Giles’ semi-final matchup began. “They were well coached, but we were able to use our speed and athleticism to get out to a lead,” said Julian coach Ryan Gates, who was able to rest his starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter in a dominant 51-31 win.

The championship game was set, another championship game between Oak Park’s two public schools. “The last few years have had Brooks and Julian in the championship game,” said Maloney. “Another classic championship game.”

In the championship Julian jumped out to an early 8-4 lead in the first quarter thanks to transition breakaways. But Brooks responded in the second quarter, leading 27-21 going into the half. “Earlier in the year, we beat them in our gym and they beat us in theirs,” says Gates. “It was going to be what team could execute better.”

With 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Brooks lead 34-33. Julian tried for a go-ahead bucket, but Brooks’s defense swatted the ball out of bounds twice before getting a defensive rebound. With clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, Brooks claimed the championship 37-33.

Julian’s loss serves as an end to their “three-peat” in this tournament. “We won against them on Thursday at home, and then we were talking trash,” says Brooks player Lameer Bernett. “It felt really good to beat both them and Roosevelt.”

Julian hopes to dethrone Brooks in their upcoming conference championship game, where the teams will likely meet for a fourth time. “They know us very well,” Gates says. “We’ll get another shot at them.”