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There were plenty of similarities between Fremd's win over Palatine in the regional semifinal and Friday's Class 4A Deerfield regional final against Zion-Benton, as the Vikings spotted their opponent big leads in both contests.
Unfortunately for No. 7 Fremd, the big difference against No. 2 Zion-Benton was that they couldn't quite climb all the way back, and in the fourth quarter, the Zee-Bees enforced their will and dealt the Vikings a 61-46 defeat.
"They pounded it inside," said Fremd junior Riley Glassmann of the fourth quarter. "Every time we made a run, they made a run back. They got easy layups and got to the line a bunch. This one hurts."
Fremd (19-9) steadily chipped away at what was once a 15-point second quarter deficit and pulled to within 30-28 with 2:35 left in the third quarter on a Xavier Williams 3-pointer.
But Zee-Bees star Malik Yarbrough went to the rim on the next two possessions, getting an old-fashioned 3-point play and then sinking 2 free throws.
Yarbrough (game-high 20 points) added 7 fourth quarter points, and another 3-point play increased the lead to 46-36 with 4:28 to play.
Zion-Benton (25-5) hit 11-of-12 free throws down the stretch to earn themselves a trip to the sectional semifinal at Waukegan, where it will face No. 3 St. Viator on Wednesday.
"I think in the second half, we just rebounded better," said Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth. "I thought that was the key on both ends."
"The fourth quarter was very tough," Williams said. "They made it very difficult for us to execute. We tried, but they just got the best of us tonight."
Trailing 21-6, Fremd chipped away as Glassmann made 5 of 6 from the free throw line in the second quarter and Matt Ochoa worked his way inside for several offensive rebounds and putbacks.
Glassmann's free throw capped a 14-5 run to end the second quarter, and Kevin Kubis added 2 free throws to open the second half.
With the Zee-Bees switching to a 2-3 zone in the second half, Glassmann (team-high 18 points) and Williams (12 points) combined for six second half 3-pointers.
"We really kept our focus and were very competitive," said Fremd coach Bob Widlowski. "We had an opportunity to take the lead in the third quarter and we didn't quite get over the hump at the 2-point mark."
Glassmann's final 3-pointer gave Fremd a chance at 49-41 with 1:36 left, but they would get no closer.
"We played very hard tonight," Widlowski said. "They're a big, strong team, but we're disappointed we didn't come out of here with a win tonight."