Fremd relied on big games from junior Bryce Hopkins and senior Isaiah Turner in holding off the host Wildcats at the 40th annual Hardwood Classic at Wheeling High School on Wednesday.
The defending champion Vikings had some nervous moments before subduing Wheeling 58-52 in first round action.
The win pits the 9-3 Vikings against Libertyville at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, while Wheeling (4-8) will meet Grayslake Central (4-8) at 2 p.m.
"We really kept our composure in the last few minutes of the game when things got tight," said Fremd coach Bob Widlowski. "We didn't turn the ball over and we were 8-for-8 from the foul line."
Wheeling fought back from a 46-31 deficit when D.J. Godlewski connected for a 3 to make it 50-46 with 1:04 left.
Fremd needed two call two timeouts to get the ball in bounds. The patience paid off as the Wildcats fouled Turner twice within 18 seconds. Turner connected on all 4 for a 54-46 lead.
Phil Bucko (11 points) connected from long range for Wheeling before Turner hit 2 more free throws and Hopkins added two charity tosses for a 58-49 lead. Bucko hit another 3 with :04 left for the game's final points.
With Fremd leading 23-21 at halftime, Hopkins came up big in the third quarter. He scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the quarter propelling the Vikings to the 46-31 lead.
"We didn't have any momentum going into the half," said Hopkins. "We needed a good spark to start the second half. It felt nice to help open the lead but my teammates showed confidence in me to get the job done. Even when they made the run at us in the fourth quarter, we didn't lose our heads."
"In the first few minutes of the third quarter, Bryce was playing hard," said Widlowski. "Because of his size and strength he can be a difficult matchup."
Hopkins filled up other columns of the stat sheet, finished 8-for-12 from the field and 5-for-7 at the free throw line to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
Wheeling coach Michael O'Keeffe was encouraged by how his team fared.
"We had a few minutes of stretches where we didn't play well in the first and third quarters," said O'Keeffe. "I think we have some good players on this team. We just have to learn how to play for all 32 minutes. I think the rest of the tournament and our second-half schedule, we can compete with any team. We can't afford short lapses."
Michael Best, a two way performer in football and just rounding into basketball shape led the Wildcats with 18 points. Godlewski and Jeremy Kim both had 9 points. Wheeling connected for 11 three-pointers to keep it close.
"To keep going in the tournament we have to keep that chip on our shoulder," said Ryan Martin, who scored 6 points and had 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. "This is a tough tournament and we have to be able to play good defense, run our offense -- Fremd ball."