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Surging Hales rolls past Fenwick

Hales’ tiny gym on Cottage Grove has been one of the city’s most exciting basketball destinations over the past decade. Just six rows of bleachers line each side of the court and most nights, every seat was full. The fans came out in droves to watch stylish, talented stars like Nate Minnoy, D.J. Cooper and Jerome Randle.

There were state titles, controversies and big personalities.

This is not that Hales.

“We don’t have a great player, but we have a lot of good players,” said Hales coach Gary London.

Those good players overwhelmed Fenwick on Tuesday. The Spartans rolled to a 56-45 victory over the Friars. No Hales player scored more than 12 points.

The Spartans weren’t ranked in the preseason.

“We all saw that, for sure,” said Hales senior Erion Moore. “We knew that we’d have to show people.”

A victory over Hillcrest opened some eyes Thanksgiving week and then most everyone took notice when the Spartans lost in overtime at highly-regarded St. Joseph in early December.

“We’ve been the same starting five since freshman year,” said Moore. “We knew what we could do. We’re comfortable with each other.”

Moore scored 10 points and Joseph Larry added 12. Johnny Fox, a 6-6 senior, may be the most important piece of the puzzle for Hales. He’s a strong post player with a nose for the ball. Fox scored nine and grabbed six boards against Fenwick. He scored six consecutive points to ignite a 21-6 second quarter that put the game away for the Spartans (7-1, 3-1 Catholic League.)

Junior Mike Ballard led the Friars (7-1, 2-1) with 19 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Mike Smith added 15 points with six rebounds and four assists, but he was the only dependable ball handler Fenwick had in the game. Sophomore Jamal Nixon was home with the flu.

“We kind of knew Mike had to do everything for them,” said London. “He has to play a lot of minutes. He played all 32 when we scouted them at the Chicago Elite Classic. It’s hard to maintain that stamina.”

While high quality basketball is back at Hales after a few down years, the crowds haven’t returned yet. It was just a Tuesday in December, but the tiny gym was far from full. London doesn’t mind. And he doesn’t miss dealing with all the big egos and entourages that come along with star high school players.

“It most certainly is (a change),” said London. “They have bought in. They play defense and the egos are in check.”