Fremd boys basketball coach Bob Widlowski was determined not to let his team come out flat for its 9 a.m. tipoff.
Widlowski had his team clock in at 7 a.m. the morning after Christmas to watch game film and get shots up before its early start against Maine West.
There was no holiday hangover for Fremd.
The Vikings rode a hot start to a 49-38 victory against Maine West on Wednesday morning to kick off the Wheeling Wildcat Hardwood Classic.
"The day after Christmas is a little tough but (Widlowski) did a wonderful job," said Fremd senior Sean Benka (12 points). "We got shots up and got a sweat going before the game. It helped us a lot. It woke us up."
Fremd (10-3) went on an 11-0 run in the final two minutes and 45 seconds of the first quarter to open up a 15-6 lead it wouldn't surrender.
"I thought that was the expectation that we'd come out like that," Widlowski said. "Our captains did a great job of setting the pace of being ready when the ball goes up. We showed that with our play."
With Maine West focused on shutting down Fremd leading scorer Riley Glassmann (15 points, 9-10 free throws) Benka stepped up with instant offense off the bench. Usually the defensive stopper, Benka contributed in a different way with 11 first-half points.
"That first half was the best he'd played all year," Widlowski said of Benka. "Not just offensively, but defensively he was giving them fits. He did a tremendous job."
Despite Fremd's quick start, the Vikings didn't pull away from Maine West. Junior forward Allante Bates (16 points) and sophomore Joel Ferraren (8 points, 5 rebounds) kept the Warriors within striking distance.
But Maine West couldn't get over that 8-point hump of a deficit. Maine West leading scorer Tom Kukec (6 points, 2-for-4 on 3s) was held scoreless in the second half while the Warriors only attempted 2 free throws in the game.
"I just didn't think we were ready to go with the energy you need against a good team like Fremd," said Maine West coach Erik McNeill. "I thought we did some things well initially, but their size and their execution on the offensive end was the difference at the start."
Execution on both ends out of the gate helped a deep Fremd squad advance in the winners bracket, where they'll face St. Viator Thursday at 3:45 am.
"That depth allows us to maintain our intensity defensively," Widlowski said. "I thought Matt Ochoa (6 points) did a nice job off the bench and obviously Benka did a real nice job for us today. We need more of that to play at that level."