Fremd can't recover from rough third quarter against Niles North
A game filled with Division-I level talent, played at a D-I level of intensity came down to a D-I level climax.
After racing up and down the court through a deadlocked first half, Niles North actually slowed it down to protect foul-plagued D-I recruit Aquan Smart (32 points) and run clock, keeping the ball out of the hands of an aggressive Fremd squad and emerging with a 63-56 quarterfinal win Thursday night at Wheeling's Hardwood Classic.
After a racehorse first half that ended 39-39, it took 4 minutes, 32 seconds for Fremd to even score a point in the decisive third quarter and only 3 all told, despite playing tight defense and limiting Niles North's virtual relay team to 10.
Fremd coach Bob Widlowski noted the period was the difference in the game. "They made a nice run in the third quarter," he said, while Fremd couldn't make anything.
Smart, committed to East Tennessee State, started the quarter with a long 3-pointer and added another field goal and five free throws for all 10 of Niles North's points in the period as Fremd had no answer for him and no one to stop him.
Until he got his fourth foul in the fourth quarter with Fremd making a comeback of its own on the long-distance shooting of Max Wexley (12 points) and the inside play of Kayman Hopkins (12). But with Smart sitting, Niles North ran 2 minutes-plus off the clock in its four-corner offense, issuing a warning bell that they were going to do it when seldom-used Liam Graham hit 3-pointer.
Smart re-entered and hit his free throws to ice it after a "lickety-splitly" first half in which Wexley, Matt Wingen, Hopkins and Charlie Towns went step for step with Smart and Jalen Butler (13 points).
As to going 4-corner, "Our strategy is we're playing to win," said Niles North coach Glen Olson. "We're not playing not to lose." They couldn't afford to, he said.
"Fremd is so good and so well coached."
"We were pleased with the effort. We're disappointed with the result," Widlowski said.
Fremd plays St. Viator at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the fifth-place bracket. Niles North plays Glenbrook South in the semifinals at 8:45 p.m.