Riley Glassmann and Fremd proved they're are a force to be reckoned with in the finals of the 36th annual Wheeling Hardwood Classic.
Glassmann led a Fremd team that outran St. Viator 77-67 in the championship game Saturday night. It was the first Hardwood Classic tournament title for the unbeaten Vikings (13-0), who joined the field at Wheeling three years ago.
"I thought we played real well tonight," Fremd coach Bob Widlowski said. "I really liked our attitude toward tonight's game. I thought we were determined in our effort and that we really finished down the stretch."
While it figured to be St. Viator pushing the ball up the court, instead it was Fremd on the attack early. With Glassmann leading the way, the Vikings jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead.
"We usually want to run our offense," said Glassmann, who would finish with 28 points and 7 rebounds and was named tournament MVP. "But they gave us a lot of good looks and we just took them. We definitely want to go. We just tried to get to the basket."
St. Viator (12-2) finally got is offense on track as the Vikings cut the lead to 10-9 on a basket by Roosevelt Smart.
Fremd answered, as they would every time the Lions got close. This time the Vikings scored 9 consecutive points and led 22-14 at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings increased their lead to 26-16 on a basket by Matt Ochoa with 6:18 left in the first half.
That's when Smart, who finished with 30 points, asserted himself for the Lions. The junior began to drive to the basket, scoring 10 of the Lions' next 13 points as St. Viator closed to 30-29 with 1:22 left in the half.
Again, Fremd shook free, sparked by a trey by Xavier Willams as the Vikings led 35-32 at the break.
The second half marked the exit -- and return -- for key players from both sides.
Pat McNamara, who was averaging nearly 13 points for the Lions, became physically ill at the break and did not return. Meanwhile, Fremd's Ben Carlson, who sat out over 10 minutes in the first half with foul trouble, returned with a vengeance.
After Fremd's Ore Arogundade, who finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, nailed a 3 to make it 37-35 with 6:51 left in the third quarter, Carlson went to work. He sparked an 8-0 run by the Vikings to make it 45-35 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Carlson had 6 of the Vikings' points in the spurt, two of them coming on offensive rebounds.
"I was fresh off the bench and it was exactly what we needed," said Carlson, who finished with 12 points. "I really had to step up and bring it."
With a little breathing room, Fremd began to use its size to keep Smart and Arogundade away from the basket. The Vikings continued to break the St. Viator trapping defense, with Ochoa and Carkson scoring as the Vikes opened up 57-44 lead with 5:57 to play.
"We were huge inside," said Ochoa, who finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds. "I tried to do my part and do what the team asked me to do."
The Lions, who were struggling offensively to that points, put on a surge, scoring 7 unanswered points to close to 57-51 on a pair of free throws by Robert Grant with 4:15 to play.
Fremd showed that it could hit free throws, too. The Vikings converted 17 of 21 free throws down the stretch with Glassmann converting 10 of 12.
"That was huge for us," Glassmann said. "Everyone was able to knock down some clutch free throws."
That free throw shooting (30-of-37) and the way the Vikings played defense had Widlowski feeling good about his team headed into the New Year break.
"We really executed our free throws well," Widlowski said. "I am happy for our seniors because they have worked hard for it, and we are ready to step up for the next challenge."
St. Viator coach Mike Howland, who hopes to have point guard Mark Falotico back after the break, said he too looks forward to getting back into the gym to work on things.
"We gave up 77 points and could not get any stops," Howland said. "We looked all out of whack in the second half and that is a credit to Fremd. This is a good learning lesson for us. We have a lot of work to do and there is a long road ahead of us."