Fremd regains its footing to stop Lake Park
NORMAL -- For a while at the start of Friday night's Class 4A girls basketball semifinal, Fremd and Lake Park seemed to reverse roles.
Lake Park looked fired up and confident like a veteran group, and Fremd looked like a newcomer to Redbird Arena with an inexperienced starting lineup.
Eventually, the Vikings remembered they're the older, more experienced team. Fremd advanced to the state championship game for the third time in six seasons with a 46-34 victory against Lake Park.
"To be honest at the beginning of the game, we were really nervous," Vikings junior guard Ruthie Montella said. "It took us a little time to get comfortable in this setting. ... I think it just took a little while for us to click and realize we're a veteran group. They're not as veteran as us. Then we got things going and we were fine from there."
Lake Park (26-9), making its first appearance downstate, raced to a 7-1 lead to start the game, with freshman Ellie Helm scoring the first 4 points.
The Vikings (29-7) settled in and gradually worked their way back into the game. Still, the Lancers led 18-17 at halftime despite starting two freshmen and a sophomore.
"We were excited, but we still knew we had a whole other half of basketball to play," Lancers senior Darrione Rogers said. "We went into the locker room with confidence, but we also knew the things we needed to work on and that was more people being aggressive."
"Just definitely we were excited to just be in this position, to be in the semifinals for the state," added Lake Park junior Emma Thorne. "There was a lot of focus, a lot of talking, a lot of communicating with each other. What we were doing good, what we needed to execute better."
Fremd took the lead for good by scoring the first 10 points of the second half, holding the Lancers scoreless nearly four minutes. The Vikings led 31-25 after three quarters.
"We were definitely just like nervous in the first half, so definitely just getting it back under our feet and playing how we normally have," Fremd senior Olivia Hill said. "Also, I think we started rebounding more, boxing out and finishing and not being scared going into bodies and just being more aggressive on the offensive side of things."
Rogers, a repeat AP first-team all-stater, scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds despite being shadowed defensively by Fremd senior Caroline Cochrane most of the game, with classmate Liz Prigge taking a few turns moving in tandem with Rogers when Lake Park had the ball.
It was the third straight game the Vikings had faced a player of Rogers' caliber, including Lake Forest's Halle Douglas and Maine West's Angela Dugalic.
"So we've gone through three of the AP first-team all-state kids," Fremd coach Dave Yates said. "That's what we did every time. Obviously, we helped when we needed to help, but part of our strategy was, they're really good players, they're going to get theirs."
Junior Grace LaBarge's 11 points led Fremd, which advanced to the 7:15 p.m. Saturday championship game against Lincoln-Way West. The Warriors feature another first-team all-stater, Taylor Gugliuzza.
Hill and Montella scored 10 points apiece.
Lake Park will play Bolingbrook in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.