Fenwick and Oak Park-River Forest both sold out their student ticket allotments for the Chicago Elite Classic, proving that the shootout’s new strategy of starting the event with a local rivalry may have staying power.
The No. 13 Friars dominated the first half but needed some late-game heroics from guard Mike Smith to hold on for a 48-40 win over the Huskies Friday at UIC.
Smith finished with 18 points and five rebounds. He took charge of the game in the final four minutes, scoring five of the Friars’ final seven points after Oak Park had cut the lead to 43-38.
‘‘I played against most of the Oak Park guys growing up,’’ Smith said. ‘‘So I knew what to expect from them.’’
Fenwick (5-0) scored just four points in the third quarter and the Huskies capitalized, cutting the Friars’ 31-18 lead down to three points.
‘‘We struggled in the third quarter and shot a lot of three’s,’’ Smith said. ‘‘I knew I had to step up as a leader and help the team come together.
‘‘It’s a little different shooting on the college court. A lot more space behind the basket. But at the end of the day if you’re a shooter, you’re a shooter.’’
Smith, a junior, and sophomore Jamal Nixon may be young, but they are the key returning players from last season for the Friars.
‘‘This year my job is to be a leader on this team,’’ Nixon said. ‘‘And to me that means doing everything, contributing in every way I can on the court. I need to fill up the stat sheet.’’
Nixon fulfilled his goal, displaying a solid all-around game with 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Huskies senior Dallis Flowers led the Huskies (3-2) with 21 points. Flowers was Oak Park’s only consistent scoring threat in the game.
‘‘It was a great experience. There were a lot of scouts, a lot of coaches here,” Flowers said. “Playing a good team at the beginning of the year makes you better at the end of the year.’’
Junior Mike Ballard scored eight and grabbed six rebounds for Fenwick and senior Kevin Owens added six points.
Alan Griffin, a 6-3 freshman, flashed some potential with seven points and six rebounds. He’s the son of former NBA player Adrian Griffin.
‘‘My dad tells me you have to play every game with mental toughness,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘It feels great to be getting so much time as a freshman.’’