Tough atmosphere has Oak Park playoff ready

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Oak Park-River Forest coach J.P. Coughlin looks at his team and sees a squad that is better than its 10-17 record would indicate.

The Huskies went 2-6 in games decided by five points or less and finished 4-8 overall in the West Suburban Silver.

“The record is not where we want to be, certainly,” he said. “We played some close games that we fell short on. I give the girls credit, though. They play hard all the time and they keep going every day.”

The Huskies finished their regular season on a positive note with a 58-50 win at St. Joseph. The Huskies played tough, grinding defense against a bigger Chargers team, and were able to make clutch free throws when their three-point shots weren’t falling the way they’d like.

“It’s a tough environment, a playoff environment, and I was really proud of the way the girls handled themselves,” Coughlin said. “They showed me a lot.”

The Huskies offense leans on senior guard Caroline Kelty and sophomore guard Hailey Hoye. The two guards combined for 36 of the team’s 58 points on Friday. Forwards like junior Erin Orr and Helen Onyenso will have to play in the postseason as well as they did Friday if the jump shots can’t find the bottom of the basket like on Friday.

“I do know we can do better and we have been,” Coughlin said. “We’ll have to show it in the regionals. And I think we’ll bring all that we have. We just all need to be aggressive and do our part.”

The Huskies were scheduled to face WSC Silver rival Hinsdale Central on Tuesday in a regional semifinal if they beat Juarez in their opener Monday.

The Red Devils beat OPRF during both meetings this season. Coughlin believes his team has what it takes to make the third time the charm.

“It’s definitely on our minds,” Coughlin said. “They beat us twice in the last minute this season. The girls believe we can win. We just have to take care of business on our end.”

For the seniors, it is a bittersweet feeling full of many memories at this stage. Senior guard Caroline Kelty remembers senior night against Proviso West, which went to four overtimes. Though it wound up being a loss, Kelty looks at the game as the highlight of her season to date.

“It was a great atmosphere for us and the game just kept going back and forth,” she said. “Even though we ended up losing, it was still memorable for me.”

Kelty, like everyone else on the Huskies, hopes that won’t be the last great memory they make as a team.~.

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