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Batavia's season-long quest to be better prepared for the postseason continued in big way Monday at the 24th annual McDonald's Shootout against undefeated Joliet Catholic, the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A.
As they have done previously this year against Neuqua Valley, Trinity, Marian Central Catholic and several others, Batavia showed it could compete but isn't quite ready to knock off the state's best, leaving Willowbrook High School with a hard-fought 63-55 loss.
Joliet Catholic (19-0) features Michigan State-bound Jasmine Lumpkin, another starter headed to St. Francis University, and two freshmen among the top players in the nation.
Lumpkin spent much of her time defending Liza Fruendt, fresh off her school-record 51-point game against Geneva. Fruendt struggled in the first half with 5 points before getting hot in the third quarter to finish with 22, the 18th time in 20 games she has scored at least 20.
"We've had a tremendous nonconference schedule," Fruendt said. "It's been crazy. Marian was probably the biggest deficit but every game we've been in and we've been competing. You might get a loss in the loss column but there's nothing that can replace who you are playing and the competition you are playing. Jasmine is one of the best in the country and to play an 8-point game, we can't get another one of those, you can't get a game like that anywhere else. It's going to help us for regionals. This isn't a step back for us, this is a step forward because that's a team that probably will go downstate and could do very well."
Batavia (14-6) got off to a solid start behind the play of sophomore post Hannah Frazier. Her putback basket after a steal and breakaway layup from Fruendt gave the Bulldogs what turned out to be their last lead of the game, 4-2.
Batavia did stay close, tied 5 times in the first quarter and once at 17-17 when Frazier opened the second quarter with 2 free throws. By halftime Frazier had made 9 of 10 at the line and had 15 points, but Joliet Catholic had a 19-rebound advantage while building a 34-25 lead.
Lumpkin started the second half with a 3-point play and it looked like Joliet Catholic might be on the verge of pulling away until Fruendt responded with a 3-pointer, a rebound she took the other way for a bucket, and then another 3-pointer to bring the Bulldogs within 39-33.
Fruendt's 3 cut Joliet Catholic's lead to 40-37, and her assist to Frazier made it 43-40, but reserve Mia Farrell connected on a 3-point basket at the close of the quarter to go up 49-41 heading to the final quarter.
The Angels quickly scored the first 6 points of the fourth. Recent freshman call-up Stephanie Rodriguez assisted fellow freshman Morgan Erickson for a layup, then Frazier scored the next 8 Batavia points. The Bulldogs got as close as 58-51 with 2:10 remaining.
"That was a heck of a girls basketball game," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "Good players on both sides, got up and down. When Lumpkin was guarding Liza that's the best athlete that has guarded her all year. She got it going a little bit in the second half. Like Friday against Geneva she's going to do her best to make sure we don't lose the game. I thought she did a good job of finding Hannah in the second half."
Nicole Ekhomu scored 19 points and Lumpkin had 17 to lead Joliet Catholic.
"I think Batavia was a pretty good team, Liza is a good player," Lumpkin said. "We had to run around and chase her a lot. but we were fortunate enough she didn't put up big numbers on us. I think our pressure helped. She's a good player and I just tried to do the best I could defensively."
Frazier finished with a career-high 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in an impressive showing against an athletic front line that included freshman Ty Battle (8 points, 8 rebounds) whose father Kenny is a JCA assistant coach and an all-time great at both West Aurora High School and the University of Illinois.
"It feels good to get that," Frazier said of her 25 points. "I owe a lot of it to Liza and Shea (Bayram) and my teammates getting me the ball.
"They had some phenomenal athletes," Frazier continuedz. "Jensen has been preparing us and telling us this is a good team but he's been giving us confidence all week saying 'I think you guys can take them' and believing in us and that helped a lot. Knowing we can hang with teams as good as this will help us in conference and our other games."
Frazier and Fruendt combined for all but 8 of Batavia's points.
"She's a very talented basketball player," Jensen said of Frazier. "She's got size, she's got strength, she's a good athlete, she's a good shooter, she's got good hands. I think if we could have got her a couple more touches she could have had 10 more points easy."