Fremd, Schaumburg ready to battle for MSL West title
Check, check, check.
With only a week or so remaining in the boys basketball season, some of the best teams in the area are starting to check off their to-do lists.
A goal for Schaumburg this season was to win 20 games. Check.
Meanwhile, Fremd wanted to hold opposing teams to less than 44 points per game. Check.
Both Schaumburg and Fremd also wanted to play for the Mid-Suburban League West title. Check. Check.
The two most successful teams in the MSL West this season will face off for all the West marbles on Friday at Schaumburg. Both Schaumburg and Fremd are 8-1 in division play, with Schaumburg (20-5 overall) having beaten Fremd (18-4 overall) 50-36 at Fremd earlier this season and Schaumburg losing to Barrington, the defending MSL West champion.
"It was a hard-fought battle," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler of the first Schaumburg-Fremd tilt. "It ended up being a 14-point game, but it was a close game all throughout."
The winner of this battle between Schaumburg and Fremd will head to the MSL conference title game next week at MSL East champion Prospect.
"We let our players set goals at the beginning of the season and one of them that they set this year was to win the conference title," Fremd coach Bob Widlowski said. "They've worked very hard to do it."
Fremd has had a familiar spot in the race for the MSL West and MSL titles. The Vikings have won the West title five times in the last 10 years and have won the overall conference title three times over that span, including most recently the 2017 title.
Meanwhile, it's been six years since Schaumburg either got to the conference title game, or won a conference title.
"We've been working to get our program to an improved level," Heisler said. "To win a division or conference title is accomplishing a big goal for us. It's a huge boost of confidence and a great thing for our program.
"We also understand that this game can help us reach further goals."
While both Schaumburg and Fremd would love to win MSL bragging rights, both teams also have their eyes on even bigger items on the to-do list.
Seeds for the Class 4A state basketball tournament will be posted Thursday by the IHSA, and both Schaumburg and Fremd are hoping to move along far into March. Friday's game could be a catalyst.
"Both of these teams have had very good seasons and have a lot of goals," Widlowski said. "This is going to be a great atmosphere on Friday. It's going to be a benefit to both teams to play in a game like this going into the playoffs.
"This will definitely be a 'bright-lights' game."
V-factor: An X-factor for Schaumburg this season in its march for an MSL West title has been guard Vaurice Patterson.
Patterson is one of the Saxons' top reserves and, already as a freshman, is one of the team's top passers.
"His court vision is as good as anyone I've been around," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said. "He is a very good passer. He makes some pretty phenomenal passes for a freshman. He has an awareness on the court offensively that you immediately notice."
So Heisler wasted no time in putting Patterson on the varsity right at the beginning of the season. Although he comes off the bench, Patterson has been seeing more and more meaningful minutes lately.
"We had some foul trouble in our game against Hoffman Estates last week and he came in a ran the point for us with a confidence and sureness that helped us win the game," Heisler said. "As the season has gone on, he's improved his defense and he is physically maturing. The future is looking very bright for Vaurice."
Saxon spark: Every 20-win team has superstars, like Schaumburg has in brothers Chris and Mike Hodges and Heze Trotter.
But every 20-win team also has sparkplugs off the bench, like Schaumburg does in Armav Karnik.
Karnik came up big in a 49-35 win over Glenbrook North earlier this month.
"We were down 9-0 and he came in and knocked down some big shots," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said of Karnik. "He hit two 3-pointers right off the bat. He did a great job of spacing the floor for us. He gave us a weapon that was much needed."
Staying nearby: More basketball is in the future of guard Bryce Hopkins, and that future basketball will be nearby, too.
Hopkins, Fremd's leading scorer at about 15 points per game and a big reason the Vikings will be playing for the MSL West title on Friday, recently announced that he will be continuing his basketball career at the University of Chicago.
Fremd coach Bob Widlowski says that the 6-foot-5 Hopkins, an A-student, will be a perfect fit at such a high-academic institution.
"Bryce is just a great example of a student-athlete," Widlowski said. "He's one of the guys who sets the pace for us academically. And I think he's going to do really well at the college level with basketball. He is so versatile. He can play all five positions. He is a tough matchup because of his size and skills."
Favorite number: Most athletes have a favorite number.
At Fremd, every basketball player loves the number 44.
A goal for the defense each game is to hold the opposing team to 44 points. When that happens, good things happen for the Vikings.
"We figure 11 points a quarter," Fremd coach Bob Widlowski said. "That's a number over the years that we've tracked and we've seen is a good number for us to help us win games. When we hold teams to 44 points or less, good things happen for us."
This season, great things have happened with Fremd's 44 goal.
When the Vikings have held opponents to 44 points or less, they are 12-0 this season.
Overall, Fremd is averaging 41.6 points allowed on the season.
On the way: He's baaaack!
After sitting out nine games from mid-January to early February, St. Viator star guard Trey Calvin is back for the Lions.
Calvin broke his hand in practice and was in danger of missing the rest of the season. The optimistic outlook was that he could be ready for the IHSA tournament.
Turns out, Calvin was ready ahead of schedule and returned to the St. Viator rotation last week in games against Lake Zurich and Lake Forest Academy.
Calvin didn't start either game, but played about 20 minutes in each contest.
"It's great to have Trey back. He brings back leadership at the point guard spot, and 17 points per game and the experience of a two-year varsity starter," St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said. "But he's also still adjusting. He did a great job on the bike and of trying to maintain condition while he was injured. But there's nothing quite like being in game shape. You can't replicate that on the bike.
"So he's still working on getting back to 100 percent and getting all of his conditioning and feel back."
Meanwhile, Calvin's teammates will need to make some adjustments, too, just as they did when he first got hurt.
"This is another adjustment for all the kids," Hayes said. "We had to adjust to life without Trey. Now we have to adjust to life with him. It's just a matter of adjusting to that, but everyone is glad he is back. Our kids know that if we want to do good things in March, we really need Trey."
Holding down the fort: Taking 17 points per game out of the starting lineup creates quite a void for any team.
But St. Viator hung in there very well while guard Trey Calvin (17 ppg) missed nine games to recover from a broken hand.
The Lions went 6-3 in Calvin's absence and are now 21-5 on the season.
"We were taking it one game at a time and I can't say enough about a number of our guys who really stepped up," St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said.
One of those guys was guard Michael Campagna.
"I can't speak highly enough of Michael," Hayes said. "He came into that spot (Calvin's spot) and did what we asked and had some really nice games.
"He guarded the other team's top guard and gained some great experience."
Other players who stepped up over the last month with Calvin out were Jack Mahoney and Owen Hickey.
Mahoney was inserted into the starting lineup around the time Calvin went down and has been a presence in the paint, even at 6-foot-2.