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Fremd girls basketball coach Dave Yates wasn’t looking forward to his friend’s farewell.
That’s because, in part, Yates wasn’t positive that Thursday night’s Class 4A Lake Forest regional final was going to be Dan Travers’ final game as Conant’s coach.
“That team played us the closest of anybody in our conference,” Yates said of the Cougars. “They were beating us the first game at halftime, and the second game it was a 6-point game almost the whole game. So I was very concerned.”
Haley Gorecki generally alleviates most concerns on the basketball court for her team, and the 6-foot junior did so again, scoring a game-high 24 points, as No. 2 Fremd bounced No. 10 Conant 49-40.
While Fremd (26-3) advanced to play No. 11 Buffalo Grove, which stunned No. 3 Prospect, in Tuesday’s 8 p.m. sectional semifinal at Barrington, Conant (17-12) played its final game under Travers.
The longtime coach and educator is retiring after 25 years in District 211.
“Dan Travers is a friend of mine,” Yates said. “It’s not a happy feeling (ending Conant’s season), because I respect the living daylights out of him. Of course I wanted our team to move on, but his teams are well-prepared, and he gets everything out of his kids. So I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Fremd pulled out 56-40 and 45-34 wins over Conant during Mid-Suburban League play. Travers, for one, looked forward to a third game.
“We obviously respect them, know how good they are and like the challenge (of playing them),” Travers said. “I told the girls, ‘I want to play Fremd. I want to play the best.’ ”
By the game’s end, one of the state’s best, Gorecki, had gotten the best of the Cougars.
“Two words — Haley Gorecki,” Travers said. “Give her kudos.”
Conant actually got off to a great start, scoring the game’s first basket on Katie Lomas’ layup, after Lexi Zades’ steal and dish. And after Dee Dee Durr scored on an inbounds pass and Lomas finished a drive, the Cougars led 6-3 with 5:18 left.
“It was pretty much, ‘Start playing,’ ” Gorecki said of Yates’ timeout talk. “We didn’t come out focused for whatever reason. But after that timeout, we started playing.”
“We just talked about taking care of the basketball and executing what our game plan was,” Yates said. “It seemed like the first couple of possessions we weren’t pushing the basketball and executing what we wanted to do defensively.”
Erica Simios’ layup in transition got Fremd going, and Brianna Lewis’ 3-pointer gave the Vikings the lead for good, as they closed the opening quarter with a 13-0 run.
When Gorecki put back her own miss early in the second quarter, the Fremd lead was 18-6.
Gorecki’s 15 points, which included three “and 1’s” and a 3-pointer, had the Vikings up 30-14 at halftime.
Erin Lenahan’s baseline jumper, after Gorecki’s dish, beat the third-quarter buzzer and stretched the Vikings’ advantage to 41-23.
“We like to drive, and they like to pack the middle, so we knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Gorecki, who shot 9 of 15 from the floor, while also totaling 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 block. She was the game’s only double-digit scorer.
“It’s always close games against them.”
Haley Anderson came off the bench to lead Conant in scoring with 8 points. Lomas finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds.
“We did some good things (early in the game),” Travers said. “We were moving the ball, and then we got impatient and missed some shots. You can’t make mistakes against a really good team.”
“It’s a lot easier when you’re up on them,” Yates said. “We got up big on them.”