CICERO – Fremd senior forward Maddy Fay didn’t mind competing in a let-them-play game on Wednesday night.
At 6-foot-2, the Northern Illinois recruit was the leading factor in Fremd’s frontcourt size advantage over Batavia.
With the referees allowing physical play for most of the game, Fay benefitted from the aggressive game in the fourth quarter.
“It was a tiring game because (Batavia) was doubling in the post,” Fay said. “We were a lot bigger than them, so I knew we had a size advantage and just tried to get the ball and take it whenever I could.”
And Fay did just that.
Fay scored seven of her 19 points in the fourth quarter to power Fremd to a 46-42 victory over the Bulldogs in a quarterfinal of the second annual Morton College Christmas Tournament. The Vikings (13-0) stayed unbeaten behind Fay’s strong two-way game, hitting some crucial fourth-quarter free throws to advance to Thursday’s semifinal against the winner of the Benet and Lake Zurich game.
Fay said the Vikings’ size played a big role in the comeback victory. Six-foot-1 Kace Urlacher finished with nine points to help absorb the absence of Ella Todd.
“(Batavia) played us really well, so I’m definitely tired,” Fay said. “It was a good grind win that took a lot of effort. We had Ella out, a big offensive player, so I had to help out more.”
Batavia junior point guard Brooke Carlson finished with a team-best 17 points before fouling out with 1:59 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs (10-4) led for most of the game but managed just three points in the final 9:48 after Natalie Warner’s 3-pointer gave them a 39-33 lead.
“At halftime, I told the team we were going to be drained physically and mentally,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “We were minus our top two players at the end of the game, but we executed our final play to perfection. We fought hard. We just have to clean a couple of things up. We showed we can play with anybody.”
The third quarterfinal of the day featured a wild, physical and lengthy battle with several delays, numerous fouls and missed free throws and big swings of momentum. In the end, the Bulldogs, who led 39-34 after three quarters, couldn’t hold the lead due to foul trouble to guards Carlson and Addie Prewitt.
The Bulldogs came out aggressive on both ends of the court, intent of handing the highly-ranked Vikings their first defeat of the season. Batavia jumped out to an 11-4 lead and held a 17-13 edge after a 3-pointer by Alexa Schorr halfway through the second quarter.
The Vikings, behind solid play bringing the ball up the court and attacking the basket from Urlacher, turned the tide to grab a 22-21 lead. Carlson, though, went back to work, scoring four straight points, including a strong drive to the basket, to give the Bulldogs a 27-22 lead at halftime.
The Vikings, who have quality wins over Kenwood, Jennings County (Ind.), Lake Zurich, Geneva, Stevenson and Barrington, just had too much frontcourt depth and big-game experience.
The Bulldogs sorely missed Carlson, who recently topped the 1,000-point career mark in the shortest amount of games played in school history, in the final two minutes.
The Vikings rode a solid fourth quarter by Fay and hit several key free throws to remain undefeated despite Todd not playing. Nikki Gonnella played a strong game before exiting with a lower leg injury in the final seconds.
“We were down without one of our better players, but I thought we showed some toughness and hung in there,” Fremd coach Dave Yates said. “We clawed back in the game. You have to give credit to Batavia, but our kids got a bunch of stops and made just enough plays offensively. It wasn’t one of our best games offensively. Maddy got us going. We were bigger than them, and we needed to get the ball inside.”