Boys basketball’s magical run


Courtesy of Mark Welsh from the Daily Herald

Tyler Mitzner, Sports Co-Editor

Down 40-42 to Conant with 8.7 seconds left, senior guard Kyle Sliwa took the ball from the Vikings’ endline. He dribbled down, had his man screened only to have 6’9” Ryan Davis of the Cougars switch onto him. Unable to see the basket over him, Sliwa threw up a prayer three-pointer that was answered. It rattled home for the Vikings to claim victory in the IHSA 4A Sectional Finals, completing not only a comeback, but arguably the greatest Fremd sports moment.

It seems that Fremd enjoyed the extremely close, nail-biting games, as they edged out Jacobs in the Super Sectionals 36-35. This time down one with 17 seconds left in overtime, senior guard Luke Schoffstall went to the line to sink both of his free throws. With the tip in falling short for Jacobs in the final seconds, the Vikings booked a trip to IHSA 4A Final Four, becoming the second time Fremd has ever done so, the last time being in 1993, and the fourth ever from the MSL.

The winningest team ever in MSL history, going 31-2, owes much of its success to its seniors. The Vikings started four seniors and played five out of their usual seven man rotation. It was senior leadership that capped off a nine point comeback against Conant and a five point comeback against Jacobs.

Head coach Bob Widlowski says it was the level-headedness of the seniors that lead them through the adversity in both games.

“They never put their heads down, the stayed focused on what they were doing,” Widlowski said. “They’ve been there, done this before, and I really thought their calmness was key.”

In the Conant game, the Vikings found beating a team three times in one season to be truly difficult. The Cougars knew what to attack, primarily the Vikings lack of size. The 6’9” Davis for Conant put up 15 and seemed unstoppable. Furthermore, the Vikings not only committed an uncharastically 10 turnovers, but also got outrebounded 24-16. Yet after timely stops, getting into the bonus with halfway through the third, and slowing the pace down the Vikings pulled themselves close enough for the miracle shot to happen. A shot Sliwa calls his luckiest shot in his entire career.

Against Jacobs the size mismatch was even more evident. Going against 6’9” Cameron Krutwig, a player who has been dominant for the Golden Eagles, the Vikings had to improve in other areas. They played much more crisp, committing only five turnovers, and forcing 14, six of which came in the the fourth quarter and overtime. They also collapsed well on Krutwig, limiting him to 13 points, well below his average.

Going against other teams that outmatch them, especially in size as they lose an offensive presence in the paint, would normally cripple other teams. However, in their selfless oriented style of play, the Fremd Boys are able to overcome such obstacles. The Vikings attack was balanced, not relying on a single player. While Sliwa was Fremd’s leading scorer with 13 points in both games, the point differential from the next highest scorer was four points and five points respectively. Also, in both games at least six players scored. Senior guard Brock Rubin tells us about their ability to play as a team that has led the Vikings to the Final Four.

“It’s just a team mentality,” Rubin says. “No one player can carry this team.”

The Vikings also saw different players step up in big moments to give the Vikings a boost. Senior forward Mark Kating hit a three off the bench late in the Conant game while Sliwa hit the game winning shot. Against Jacobs it was Junior guard Elliott Kim who had five points off the bench to give the Vikings and early lead, while Schoffstall had the game-winning free throws.

After their 31st win the Vikings head to Peoria. Yet, Sliwa talks about how they weren’t ready to sit happy and rest on their laurels.

“We hold to the belief on that the most important game is the next game, which is why I believe we’re successful,” Sliwa says. “We’ll be happy with this win tonight, but tomorrow we’re right onto Whitney Young.”

A mentality that had gotten them far indeed. The Vikings fell short on a 14 point comeback against Whitney Young, and fell short again against Bolingbrook, placing fourth in state. As of now, they are the greatest boys basketball team Fremd has ever seen.