Looking for peace in Fenwick-Trinity feud

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Fenwick junior guard Jade Owens deserves to play against Trinity next season. She lives in River Forest. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

Updated: 1/28/13 8:26 a.m.

For a brief moment last week, west suburban girls basketball fans in Oak Park, River Forest and beyond could rejoice. At long last, No. 10 Fenwick (17-3) and No. 5 Trinity (17-3) were scheduled to meet in a regular season game.

I wish.

Alas, the celebration was brief as the game was mysteriously taken off the schedule from Saturday’s annual Sweet 16 tournament, the brainchild of Maine West coach Derril Kipp where 16 area teams (this year it’s 14) play twice in a day in a fiesta of girls basketball on two courts at Lake Zurich. Now it looks like both Fenwick and Trinity will only play one game each Saturday — Fenwick vs. Lincoln-Way East at 5:30 p.m. and Trinity vs. Maine South at 7 p.m.

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The Sweet 16 started more than 10 years ago. It counts as a tournament, even though it’s not round-robin or bracketed. Kipp reports the champion to the IHSA depending on who has the best record. Kipp handles all the scheduling and tries to create the best matchups while each team plays four games — one on the road, two on a neutral court and one at home — usually against teams they don’t normally see.

“The idea of the Sweet 16 is to get the best teams you can play,” Kipp said.

Trinity coach Ed Stritzel said the proposed Fenwick-Trinity game was a scheduling snafu by Kipp.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Power said. “It’s a limited season. There are limitations by the IHSA. You never get that game (date) back. It’s lost forever. The seniors are short-changed. I don’t think it’s right. You should have two games (to play Saturday).”

Trinity’s first Sweet 16 games was at Marian Catholic Jan. 15. The Blazers lost 64-57. What was unexpected was that Stritzel and Marist coach Mary Pat Connelly counted their McDonald’s Shootout game Monday at Willowbrook as a Sweet 16 game. Trinity won 60-46. Trinity already beat New Trier 48-33 Saturday in Winnetka in its third Sweet 16 game.

Trinity doesn’t play another Sweet 16 game until Saturday. The Blazers host Neuqua Valley at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a nonconference game. Fenwick hosts Maine West at 7 p.m. Thursday in its second Sweet 16 game.

Trinity assistant basketball coach and assistant athletic director Nicole Rivera, a 2003 Fenwick grad, explained in an email: “We got Marian Catholic away, Marist at a neutral site and New Trier away. We were then assigned Maine South at a neutral site. Those are already four VERY good teams and it wasn’t fair to us or our kids to have a fifth game thrown at us again on the road due to their error, while every other team has four games and a home game.”

Kipp refuted Trinity’s version of the Sweet 16 schedule change.

“It was not a scheduling conflict at all,” Kipp said. “You can put that in the paper.”

An original draft of the Sweet 16 schedule sent by Lake Zurich included a Fenwick vs. Trinity game at 12:30 p.m. in the Main Gym. That has now been cancelled.

“It’s something the two coaches have to work out,” Kipp said. “It was a game that was on the schedule. One of the coaches didn’t want to play.”

The last time Fenwick and Trinity played against each other in a regular season game was Dec. 6, 2004, when Devereaux Peters scored 19 points to lead Fenwick to a 66-63 win. Current Fenwick assistant coach Andrea DiCanio was a junior on that team, which eventually lost in the Class AA state quarterfinals to Peoria Richwoods. Fenwick beat Trinity again that year, 69-61, in the sectional final.

Stritzel came to Trinity in 2006 and does not know the source of an apparent feud between the two Dominican schools located 2.7 miles apart by Google Maps.

“I’ve been trying for years, for five years, with Power (to schedule a game) and it has not happened,” Stritzel said. “We almost got together, but I’ve moved on.”

Rivera adds: “It would be good for the neighborhood. It would be a sold-out game. For the kids, it would be a lot of fun.”

As a non-Catholic outsider from DuPage County, who has only covered Fenwick and Trinity for the past couple of years, I say it’s time to put any dispute to rest, no matter what the cause. Stritzel’s daughter, Patricia, will be a junior next season and who wouldn’t like to see her play against Fenwick? Fenwick’s Jade Owens will be one of the Chicago area’s top senior guards next season. I imagine Owens, a River Forest resident, would love to play against Trinity in her senior year.

Fans shouldn’t have to wait for another possible playoff date to see the two teams play against each other. Trinity won last year’s sectional semifinal 64-45.

If you would like to see the two teams play, contact the athletic directors from each school: Trinity’s Steve Messina at smessina@trinityhs.org and Scott Thies at sthies@fenwickfriars.com. Tell them to let the kids play. It’s the Friars vs. Blazers. Let’s get it on.

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