Fremd's 22-0 run puts away Lake Zurich
It's easy to pinpoint exactly where the Class 4A No. 1 girls basketball team in the state put away Tuesday night's semifinal of the Class 4A Highland Park sectional.
Top-seeded Fremd used a 22-0 run from the three-minute mark of the second quarter to 53 seconds left in the third quarter en route to a 48-23 triumph over No. 4 Lake Zurich.
"Once we get something going, there's no stopping it," said IUPUI pledge Kace Urlacher, who helped spark the Vikings' relentless full-court pressure. "We all have this chip on our shoulder like we know how good we can be and we just want to live up to that."
Mid-Suburban League champion Fremd (30-2) will try to live up to its top ranking when it faces MSL East champion and No. 3-seeded Hersey (26-8) in Thursday's 7 p.m. title game.
That game will be one step further than the Vikes advanced last season when they lost to the same Lake Zurich team at the Warren sectional semifinal.
"For sure, we were thinking about (last year's loss to Lake Zurich)," Urlacher said. "We knew to get past this game, no matter who we played, it was going to be a battle. We wanted to win and go further than last year, and that's what we did. It was our competitiveness and not wanting to lose."
LZ (25-8) grabbed its biggest lead of the half at 15-11, thanks to a layup by Anna Gilbertson and 12-foot lean-in shot by senior Baylie Parks.
Trailing 17-13, Fremd went on a 10-0 run to lead 23-17 at intermission.
The big rally began with a driving 12-foot bank shot and 3-pointer by sophomore reserve Ellie Thompson, followed by sophomore Ella Todd's 15-footer off a steal by Sam Bodensteiner and Todd's 3-pointer in the final second.
The big surge continued in the second half, with a 12-0 run that started with Todd's lean-in layup off a pass from Todd that resulted in a 3-point. Thompson then delivered another 3-pointer and the Vikes were off and running.
They held LZ to just 2 free throws in the third quarter and then 4 points in the final quarter.
"We started executing what we wanted," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "We were not executing our game plan in the beginning. We're playing a team that knocked us out last year and that's on our minds a little. When we got the run at the end of the second quarter, we got a little breathing room and were able to go to the locker room and just tell the kids to relax and play."
Todd finished with a game-high 14 points followed by Thompson (10), Kace Urlacher (7), Maddy Fay (5) and Coco Urlacher (5). Brynn Eshoo added a 3-pointer and Shreya Mantena also scored late in the game for the Vikes.
"There were things we wanted to do defensively, like staying down and keeping people in front of us," Yates said. "I felt like we started doing that in the second half and our press started paying dividends."
Coach Chris Bennett's Bears finished tied for seventh-most wins for a single season in program history.
"We knew Fremd quite well," Bennett said. "We saw them play a bunch of times and we played them in our first game of the season (lost 52-44 in Palatine). They're just so deep and so talented. They come at you in waves. They had that nice little run at the end of the second quarter and we had a couple of turnovers and that was that. We played a pretty good first half and just ran out of gas."
The Bears won their 16th regional in program history and second straight.
"We had a great season to be able to come back from some of the difficulties we had in the middle of the season," Bennett said. "Three weeks ago it was pretty ugly. We lost to New Trier and were kind of searching for ourselves and then we kind of got it back. Our seniors (Parks and Brooke Wahlund) led us back. Bailee (who had 6 points) got healthy. We had a great win over Stevenson to get a regional and I couldn't be happier for our seniors to get their number on the (regional) board."