Pace is very important to Fremd's boys basketball team.
It was never more obvious than Friday night, when the undefeated Vikings were clinging to a 20-16 halftime lead against an already thin Hoffman Estates team further hampered by missing players due to injuries and discipline.
Somehow Hoffman Estates had maintained ball control most of the half, limiting Fremd's touches, shot opportunities and even outrebounding the taller visitors in this Mid-Suburban West battle.
But Fremd's third-quarter performance quickly put an end to that.
The Vikings (23-0, 9-0) went to the press, harassed Hoffman into 10 third-quarter turnovers while shooting 12 of 14 from the floor themselves and opening a 49-16 lead after three en route to a 52-23 win.
"We got up in full-court pressure on them," said guard Luke Schoffstall, who had 13 points in a balanced Fremd attack. He hit a 3-pointer among his 5 field goals and found himself the beneficiary of several fastbreak feeds for layups on the go in the 29-0 third quarter.
"We did a good job of pushing the ball," a key to their success with their shooting abilities, depth and the kind of defensive pressure they like to maintain.
Fremd point guard Kyle Sliwa led all scorers and was 4 of 4 in the third quarter, when he scored 10 of his game-high 14 points. His defensive pressure and fast hands forced turnover after turnover.
"We wanted to increase the pace of the game," said Fremd coach Bob Widlowski, whose club clinched the MSL West outright, "and we did it with our defensive intensity."
You could sense the third-quarter landslide coming when Marcell Boclair's collision on a drive for Hoffman Estates looked like it might be a 3-point play. Instead, it was a charge and when Shaan Patel (8 points) scored immediately thereafter on the other end for Fremd, you could feel the entire game swing.
Sliwa followed with a steal for an and-1 driving basket. Then he scored on another fastbreak. Schoffstall hit a driving shot. Patel scored off another steal. Sliwa hit a reverse layup. Patel nailed a 3.
"Unfortunately, it's a four-quarter game," said Luke Yanule, Hoffman's coach, whose shorthanded club battled hard. James Allen led Hoffman with 6 points on two 3-pointers.
"I was really proud of our effort. Fremd is so talented and so deep," he said in noting that his kids only scored 15 total against them last time.
For Fremd, going forward, "We have to come out stronger," said Schoffstall, who rarely misses the open-look 3-pointers that Sliwa seems to set him up for so often. "Hoffman (8-15, 2-7) did a good job in the first half."