Fremd 6-foot-4 senior Matt Ochoa gave coach Bob Widlowski exactly what he'd been asking for this week and a whole lot more in Wednesday's 91-61 dismantling of South Elgin.
In a battle of 2-0 teams at the 38th Annual Chuck Mitchell Thanksgiving Tournament at Fenton, Ochoa hauled down 18 rebounds -- 8 more than his previous career high -- to help his Vikings dominate the rebounding battle 45-15.
"(On Tuesday against Fenton) coach told me, 'Get 8 rebounds, get 8 rebounds,' but I had a tough time because I got 2 fouls quick," said Ochoa, who also scored 21 points to go with 2 assists and a steal. "So (against South Elgin) I was like, 'I have to get 8 rebounds.' It just so happens I got a little more."
"That's how we'd like to attack the boards, especially Matt Ochoa," Widlowski said. "He was really aggressive. He really hit the boards hard. I think that was the difference."
The victory advances Fremd to the tournament title game for the third straight season. The Vikings will face Lake Park at 6 p.m. South Elgin concludes tournament play at 4:30 p.m.
The Storm scored 94 points Monday in a win over Fenton and 80 points in Tuesday's victory against Mather, but against the much taller, vastly more experienced Vikings, ranked No. 6 in the Daily Herald Top 20, South Elgin managed only 14 field goals.
In a game that saw 60 combined fouls (34 by Fremd) and 82 combined free-throw attempts, the Storm nearly scored as many points from the free-throw line (29) as from floor (32).
First-year South Elgin coach Matt Petersen knew his team might have trouble against a team like Fremd that can run with them but also play solid half-court basketball. The half-court game is a work in progress for the Storm.
"In order for us to be successful we had to practice transition first because we have to get them running at a speed they haven't run at every single possession," Petersen said. "So when you take seven or eight of your first 10 practices and focus on that, you don't have time to actually get in the half court and focus on half-court execution. They got us in the half court today and you saw what happened -- a lot of bad habits.
"As the season goes on and we start practicing more, we'll push the half-court stuff. If we had practiced all the half-court stuff and prepared for (Fremd) to slow it down, we weren't going to be ready to beat a Fenton or a Mather because we're not playing at the tempo we need to."
South Elgin (2-1) stayed with the Vikings for a quarter. A four-point play by Fremd 6-7 sophomore reserve Patrick Benka with 1.8 seconds left in the opening quarter staked the Vikings to a 21-17 lead.
Fremd gained separation in the second quarter, outscoring the Storm 24-12, led by 8 points from Ochoa and 9 of senior Riley Glassman's game-high 26 points. The Vikings held South Elgin to 3-of-13 shooting in the second quarter.
"They scored 17 in the first quarter and that's not going to get it done," Glassman said. "We want to play defense. Defense is what makes us a good team. We really shut them down after that. Our defense led to our offense and we really just got going."
Leading 45-29 at the half, the Vikings opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run and ballooned their lead as high as 40 points, 89-49, before the Storm chipped away in garbage time.
"We're fine. It's our third game," said South Elgin senior Darius Wells, who matched teammate Matt Smith with 16 points. "We'll rest and come back Friday. Then we have the whole week to prepare for Waubonsie Valley on Thursday."