Fremd turns it on, turns back Buffalo Grove
The turning point came quite early in Monday's first semifinal of the Class 4A girls basketball semifinal at Palatine High School.
And now Fremd can turn its attention to Thursday's championship, when it will face either No. 2 seed Prospect or No. 3 Hersey at 7 p.m.
Trailing No. 5-seeded Buffalo Grove 7-2 less than three minutes into the contest, state-ranked and top-seeded Fremd closed out the first quarter with a dominant 17-4 run en route to a convincing 63-47 triumph.
Five different players scored for Fremd (26-4) in its game-changing rally, and that balance was prevalent in the Vikes' final scoring figures.
Senior Haley Gorecki, back from an ankle injury that sidelined her in the regional championship last week, led Fremd with 13 points, followed by junior Brianna Lewis (12), junior Bryana Hopkins (12) and sophomore Grace Tworek (11), who also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
A 3-pointer by senior Maddy Callahan, and two driving layups by junior Sammy Stejskal gave BG the 7-2 lead with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
"The first two minutes we didn't really execute what we wanted to do defensively," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "We made one adjustment, switching up a kid, and then we got some momentum."
It started with Tworek making a spinning move for a 6-footer in the lane followed by a Gorecki's layup that tied the game at 7-7.
BG owned 2-point leads at 9-7 and 11-9 before Fremd went ahead for good at 13-11 on Tworek's driving 8-foot bank shot.
A putback by Hopkins, rebound layup by Tworek and rebound 8-footer by junior Amanda McCartney just before the buzzer gave Fremd a 19-11 leads after one quarter.
"We knew they would be a handful," said BG third-year coach Steve Kolodziej, who had the Bison playing in a sectional for the second straight year. "We had to knock down some shots and we did that in the first quarter. But then we missed some easy ones and gave up some costly putbacks.
"Fremd is a good basketball team and they broke us down. Before you knew it, it was 19-11 and that was the M.O. the rest of the way."
The Vikes never let up, using an 8-0 run to start the second quarter to pull away and never again let BG (21-11) within single digits.
"Our focus is always on how we start the game so that was a wake-up call when we feel behind," Tworek said. "We knew they were smaller than us so we wanted to feed our posts and play as a team."
The Vikes did both, getting 9 rebounds from the Gorecki, along with 3 steals and 3 assists. Hopkins collected 7 rebounds with 2 assists and 2 rebounds while junior Erin Lenahan made her presence felt with 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 points.
"We were able to feed the posts because of our size advantage," Lewis added. "But we also wanted to attack with our speed. We had to play as a team and run our plays."
Yates credited everyone on the bench with the Vikes' ability to run their plays against BG.
"We have a bunch of kids who didn't get into the game but they have a great impact on this team," Yates said. "They do a very good job running the other team's plays in practice and getting us ready for the game. And we knew Buffalo Grove is a good shooting team."
The Bison had five 3-pointer in the game, including two apiece from Callahan (10 points) and Maddie Welter (6 points). Julie Jambrone (11 points) had one from long distance.
Stejskal scored 8 of her team-high total in the first quarter.
But because the Vikes were able to control the boards, the Bison could never inch back to within single digits.
"We pounded the ball inside pretty well," Yates said. "I thought we had a good size advantage so we wanted to make sure we got a lot of inside touches."
Julia Wacker also used her inside power to score a layup off the bench the second quarter to allow Fremd to double the score on BG at 32-16.
"I thought the best part of the game was our response to their start," Yates added. "We had a good pushback. We didn't let the first two minutes dictate the game. We were able to circle the wagons."
Kolodziej was proud of his team, which gave BG its first 20-win season since 2008.
"We had tremendous senior leadership," he said. "It's a great group of kids. Our leadership will be missed.
"What an experience this was this season. It was such a fun group to be around every day at practice. It was a pleasure to come to work. The seniors (Callahan, Jambrone, Bri Kolbus and Teagan Hutchings) will be missed."
Gorecki did not want to miss Monday's game and worked hard to rehab from her ankle injury suffered last Wednesday in practice.
"It was hard staying on the bench last game," she said. "I thought we executed well on defense after the time out (when it was 7-2). Our coach had them scouted well and we were able to take away their shots."
Now they have a shot at Fremd's first sectional title since 2001.