All-area guard Ashley McConnell began her fourth season on the Fremd girls varsity basketball team on Wednesday night in the Vikings' gym.
It started with a flourish.
The defending Mid-Suburban League champs stormed to 15-0 lead in less than three minutes and never looked back in a 59-23 victory over Johnsburg in the opening round of the Turkey Thriller.
"This is the deepest team I've played on in my four years here," said McConnell, the 2011-12 MSL West Player of the Year. "It's awesome. Our practices are so competitive."
The Vikes' competitiveness showed right from the get-go as their pressure defense forced 5 turnovers in the first three minutes.
Sophomore Haley Gorecki started the fireworks with a steal and layup.
The 6-foot guard then scored on a short bank shot off an inbounds pass from Bernie Williams before McConnell's steal and layup made it 6-0 in less than a minute.
"We wanted to come out strong and we did," said McConnell, who had 10 points, 4 steals and 2 assists. "In practice, we've really been focusing on defense and we wanted out come out in the game and execute that. We talked about being aggressive and getting into the passing lanes. Haley really came out strong "
Gorecki converted 3 steals into layups and drilled a a 3-pointer while scoring all of her game-high 18 points in the first ten minutes.
Her final steal and layup gave Fremd a 32-4 lead with 6:01 left in the half.
Moments later, a 6-footer by junior Hannah LaBarge made it 34-4 moments later.
The 5-foot-11 LaBarge finished with 9 points and 3 rebounds.
"I thought Hannah LaBarge did a nice job, " said Fremd coach Dave Yates, whose team led 41-8 at the break. "I think we are real deep with this group and that might have been our weakness last season. It's nice to see a lot of new kids come in make an impact."
Other rebounding leaders for the Vikes were Marilyn Lortz (6 points) with 4 while Emily Bieda, Catherine Ernst and Williams each had 3.
Freshman guard Brianna Lewis made her debut and contributed 4 points in a span of 20 seconds late in the first half with a 10-foot-fade-away shot and nifty drive in the middle of the lane.
Junior Alissa Wisniewski and freshman Erin Lenahan also chipped in points for the hosts.
"We wanted to come out and set the tone defensively," Yates said. "And we did the whole first half. It was exciting to see the girls come out and have a good start to the season."
Johnsburg coach Brad Frey liked his team's improved play in the final two quarters.
"We talked about that at half," Frey said. "We said 'Yeah, they're the better team, we get that'. But we wanted to be proud of how we finished.
"Fremd is faster and more physical. These are things we have to work on. I'm not terribly disappointed. We'll erase the first half. After that, we're proud."