Can Fremd continue its MSL West dominance?
The girls basketball season now returns to its regularly scheduled programming -- conference play.
And when it picks up again in the Mid-Suburban League West, Fremd will be trying to continue one of the most dominant runs in league history.
Leading the West at 4-0, the Vikings have won 52 of their last 55 games in the West.
The bleep on the radar (three straight losses) all came within a period of two weeks last winter.
Soon-to-be hall of fame Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro and her Fillies broke the Vikings' streak of 46 in a row when they edged a 4-0 Fremd team, 44-40.
Then came consecutive losses to Hoffman Estates (49-39) and defending champion Palatine (43-42).
"We were kind of upset when we had the streak broken last year," said Fremd guard Angela Zara, the only senior on the Vikings' roster this winter. "We were excited to come back and prove ourselves this year.
"We don't take any single conference game for granted and we're excited to get back to it Friday night."
The Vikings will host Schaumburg on Friday. The Saxons are tied with Barrington for second (both 3-1) in the West followed by Conant (2-2), Hoffman Estates (0-4) and Palatine (0-4).
Over in the MSL East, Rolling Meadows and Hersey are tied for first at 3-1, followed by Buffalo Grove (2-2), Prospect (2-2), Elk Grove (1-3) and Wheeling (1-3).
Under coach Dave Yates, Fremd has won eight West titles in his 12 seasons. He and hall of fame coach Carol Plodzien are the only two coaches in program history which dates back to 1973.
"It's a whole culture," Zara said. "It starts back in fifth grade with our feeder program. The coaches in feeder do a great job. And coach Yates does a great job in cultivating players at a young age.
"We just had camps for our younger kids over the holiday break so it really starts when we are young. It's really been exciting to be part of this program the past four years."
In junior Emily Klaczek's three years as a starter, Fremd is 31-3 in conference play.
"We take total pride in our conference games," she said. "It's a good conference so we know we have to come out with as much energy as we can every game.
"Those losses last year made us hungry to keep getting better and to work as a team. It's good to learn from losses and that's what we've been trying to do."
The state-ranked Vikings enter the new year with an 18-2 record, after finishing a solid fourth at the Montini tourney and defeating a 16-5 Fenwick team at the Chicagoland Showcase Invitational last Saturday in Lisle.
"The next three weeks are going to fly by now with the conference games," Yates said. "Of course, these kids take pride in our success in the West. And we constantly remind them of that. That's what we've got to focus on now."
On a roll: Maine West, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A, is enjoying its longest wining streak (20 in a row) since 1989 when it set the IHSA record with 65 straight wins under hall of fame coach Derril Kipp.
That streak was ended by New Trier, which coincidentally has given Maine West is closest call this year when it lost 50-42 to the Warriors on Nov. 27.
Coach Kim de Marigny's Warriors then defeated the Trevians 50-23 four weeks later in the championship game of the Komaromy Classic at Dundee-Crown High School.
West also set the longest conference winning streak at 116 during the 1980s and early 1990s in the Central Suburban North.
Memories: When Fremd coach Dave Yates watched his team rally from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Fenwick on Saturday at Benet Academy, he was sitting on the same sidelines where he sat while playing for St. Edward High School in the mid-1980s.
Yates' Green Wave played Benet each year, and he remembers when his team faced former Redwings star Porter Moses, now the head coach of Loyola University's men's basketball team.
"That's the reason we play in this gym (now called Alumni Gym with a new gymnasium down the hallway)," Yates said. "It's got the smell of an old gym and it's just a neat atmosphere and fun to play here."
Memories II: Leyden coach Stephanie Kuzmanic has already played her alma mater Wheeling twice this season.
One of the all-time leading scorers in Wildcats' history, Kuzmanic reached out to current coach Matt Weber when she took over at Leyden five years ago.
"I tried to set something up so we could play at Wheeling," Kuzmanic said. "It's fun for our kids to kind of see where I came from and it's fun for me to go back and see the same people working the scoreboard, same people working the books from when my Wheeling team went downstate (third in 2009)."
Kuzmanic, who went on to be an All-America guard at Carthage College, said she was fortunate to play on a team with four other starters who went on to play college basketball.
"Everyone played AAU and year round," she said of coach Shelly Wiegel's 2008 team. "I just try to take that experience and teach my girls here at Leyden the importance of the offseason. When I came here, that was something we had to do -- get more girls involved and we've done that."
Case in point is junior guard Jamyah Tate.
"She has been playing real well and she joined AAU in the offseason," Kuzmanic said. " She worked really hard and it shows on the court now. She plays with a lot of heart so hats off to her."