Fremd keeps hopes alive for MSL West title with win over Conant


Matthew Conway, Sports Editor

A fifth loss was on the horizon for Fremd, as they were unable to score effectively in the lane in the first half and trailed Conant 12-11 at halftime of Senior Night on Feb. 8.

Ultimately, the Vikings honored the team’s four seniors (Dean Ganas, John Smyros, Timmy Carlisle and Bryce Hopkins) with a 44-33 victory. Improving to 8-1 in Mid Suburban League play, Fremd kept its hopes alive for an MSL championship. Senior forward Bryce Hopkins and senior guard John Smyros led with 11 points each, while senior guard Dean Ganas scored nine, junior forward Kayman Hopkins added eight and junior guard Jake Schoffstall tallied seven.

The Vikings’ turnaround could be credited to a fluid offensive attack paired with relentless on-ball defensive pressure that forced Conant to turn the ball over and gave Fremd easy buckets at the rim to start the second half.

Coach Bob Widlowski attributed his team’s success to its efficiency.

“We did a nice job of being efficient which helped us out tremendously,” Widlowski said.

The beginning of the game could have gone better but Fremd certainly learned from its mistakes.

“I believe we had a lot of energy coming into the game, but didn’t execute as well as we wanted to in the first half,” Smyros said. “Going into the second half we came out with a lot of momentum and started to build a lead which helped us pull away.”

Despite trailing 12-6 in the second quarter, Fremd pushed its lead to 12 in the third quarter before the Cougars pulled within three, 30-27, with 4:15 left to play. Hopkins and Ganas responded by drawing fouls and hitting free throws to widen the lead.

Widlowski was impressed with his team’s second half performance after a lackluster first half.

“In the second half, I thought we did a very nice job of speeding them up,” Widlowski said. “We came out in the second half and we trapped a lot more at the wing and in the full court… we did a better job of getting the ball in the lane in the second half.”

Kayman Hopkins recognized the team’s need to adjust to the pace of play.

I thought we came out to a slow start in the first half because Conant really tried to slow the tempo of the game down. However, when we made adjustments at halftime and began trapping, we were able to speed up the game and dominate the second half by controlling the pace of the game.”

Despite Fremd’s best efforts, Conant maintained a steady and aggressive pace of play.

“We were playing pretty well on offense, but Conant was doing a good job of holding the ball and waiting for high quality shots which was taking away from us being on offense,” junior Kayman Hopkins said. “I think we can use this game to help us because it shows that everyone is always going to play hard against us and that we always have to play together and with energy from start to finish.”

Conant was well-prepared and efficient in its approach.

Conant was a tough opponent. They know the game very well and are very well coached and organized. But at the end of the day, I think our experience allowed us to pull away and get the win,” Ganas said.

On what this win means for his team’s future, Widlowski recognized that it was a nice achievement but that the job is not done yet.

“Every MSL game is a tough game. You have to come to play. They came out with a great game plan and we’re very happy to come out of here with a win,” Widlowski said.

“We can definitely use this as momentum going into championship games and playoffs because we were able to experiment with some new defensive schemes that can potentially be useful during a close game in the future,” Ganas added.

Kayman Hopkins punctuated the victory with an emphatic dunk in the final seconds of the game.

Fremd advances to 17-4 with the win and will play a pivotal game at Schaumburg on Friday, as the winner of that game will win the MSL West.