Defensive Prowess Powers Fremd Hoffman Stops Barrington; Elgin Ousts Schaumburg
Byline: Daily Herald Reports
If Fremd plays defense the way it did in winning a Class AA regional title Friday night, there's no telling how far the Vikings can go.
Fremd mixed two presses and the clutch shooting of Eddie Hebert and Andre Duncan to forge a 56-40 win at home over Larkin, which fought valiantly to reduce a 20-point lead to 8 in the fourth quarter.
But relentless defensive pressure enabled Fremd to get transition baskets or free-throw opportunities as the Vikings (24-3) extended the lead down the stretch.
The Viking advance to meet Rolling Meadows, a 54-42 winner against Palatine, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hersey sectional semifinals.
Make no mistake - defense is the heart of this Fremd team.
"Our press really bothered them," said head coach Mo Tharp. "We kept them off balance. I don't think they were ever comfortable."
Unless, that is, you define comfortable as 15-of-45 shooting and 18 turnovers.
Despite being outmanned, outmuscled and outshot all night, Larkin rallied. Using some pressing tactics of their own, the Royals (15-13) forced some turnovers and converted them, reducing a 40-20 deficit to 40-28 by the end of three, and drawing within 45-37 with 2:30 left in the game. Deryn Carter's (19 points) shooting, James Westbrook's ball-hawking, rebounding and penetrating, and John Alesch's tough defensive effort against Hebert combined to give the Royals a run.
"We had some momentum. We had a lot of fire," said head coach Dom Cannata.
It was soon doused by Fremd's ability to manufacture points off its defense, as the Vikes had done all night. Hebert hit 2 free throws, a Duncan steal became a driving 3-point play, and two more consecutive steals finished up with Steve Melendez free throws as the lead climbed back to 52-37.
Hebert led all scorers with 21, shooting it out with Carter in the second half and finally figuring a way to get loose from Alesch's sticky defensive effort.
"I felt I could beat my guy off the dribble. He was overplaying me," said the 6-foot-4 senior guard, who did just that after a slow start from the perimeter. "At the end of the game, I want to be the one at the line," he added, after hitting 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Hebert was everywhere else too, with 9 rebounds and 2 assists.
Fremd won the battle of the boards, 28-24.
"Our guys came back," said Tharp of Fremd's ability to regroup after Larkin's rally.
"We knew it was going to be tough to come in here," said Cannata. "We had good looks at the basket, we just couldn't score. If we could've hit some of those shots in the second half, it might have been a different ball game."
Fremd's in-your-face defensive effort was responsible for much of that. Tharp was able to shuffle more fresh legs in and out than Larkin. Alvin Wang, Sam Jackson, Brian Duncan and Ryan Long all contributed to the stifling defensive effort. Roy Pederson's ability to knock down three first-half treys helped Fremd build its lead.
In fact, the game looked all but over in the third quarter when Fremd scored the half's first 8 points on a putback and a jumper by Wang, an Hebert drive off an Andre Duncan steal, and a Melendez score on an assist by Duncan.
"Our guys are gamers," said Tharp. "They come to play."
"We've all got confidence," said Hebert.
- Howard Schlossberg
Hoffman 58, Barrington 52
The game plan worked the way coach Bill Wandro anticipated it had to for Hoffman Estates to beat visiting Barrington 58-52 for the regional championship Friday.
The fourth-seeded Hawks (19-9) advanced to Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. sectional semifinal at Hersey against top seed Elgin (27-1), a 58-43 winner over Schaumburg.
"We had to get to the free throw line and cause turnovers because that is how we won the last time (60-50 earlier in the season)," Wandro said. …