BATAVIA – Batavia vaulted into an ever-tightening Upstate Eight Conference River Division girls basketball race Tuesday with its hands up on defense, nowhere near players’ hips or knees.
Coach Kevin Jensen stressed that “Every deflection is a win” even during the waning moments of the Bulldogs’ 74-49 rout against conference-leading St. Charles East. It’s hard not to stay active with a roster of only eight players.
Batavia (13-7, 4-2 UEC River) figures it’s in for the long haul in its pursuit of East, Streamwood and Geneva, thanks in no small part to conditioning and incessant intensity.
“It’s a close-knit team. On bigger rosters, some of the girls hardly play, and for us, everyone gets in and everyone enjoys it,” freshman post Hannah Frazier said. “I think it’s better. We work more as a team when it’s like that.”
While the Saints (10-9, 5-1) are by no means sticking their hands up in surrender, coach Lori Drumtra would have liked them to be in better defensive position Tuesday. In the team’s first conference game without senior leading scorer Paige Jordan – who Drumtra confirmed has left the team – East often reached and approached Batavia at poor angles instead of moving its feet and staying sound.
Batavia exploited the Saints’ struggles most during a 28-point third quarter in which it started 5 for 5 from long range. A 29-24 Bulldogs lead at the break swelled quickly, as the hosts led by 19 points entering the final quarter.
Liza Fruendt and Miranda Grizaffi swished two treys apiece during the run, while Bethany Orman added another. East mostly defended Batavia man-to-man, but Fruendt – who scored a game-high 28 points – pinpointed the third quarter as the time the Bulldogs finally started solving the Saints’ varying zone looks.
“Bottom line is – and I told the girls this, too – the 49 part of it doesn’t really bother me. That’s not really a bad offensive game,” Drumtra said. “It’s the 74 that I can’t get past, you know. There’s no way that St. Charles East should be giving up 74 points.”
Drumtra said she was less concerned about replacing Jordan’s scoring output in the long-term, as she plans to steer certain players to become more offensive-minded. The Saints shot 17 for 60 (28.3 percent) from the field, but Drumtra found that number was more a product of rushing than taking bad looks.
Amanda Hilton (17 points) and Laney Deckrow (10) paced the Saints offensively. Trouble was, Batavia countered with four double-digit scorers: Fruendt, Frazier (11) Grizaffi (11) and Erin Bayram (10).
Fruendt scored 19 points after halftime on 6 for 8 shooting from the field and a 5 for 5 effort from the foul line.
“You get going and you’re not really thinking about what you’re scoring and stuff. But when you keep going, you just kind of get on a roll and it leaves your mind, the amount,” Fruendt said. “In the beginning, you’re kind of thinking, ‘OK.’ But once you start scoring, it just kind of leaves your mind and you don’t really worry about it.”
That’s fine by Jensen, who joked about playing coy with Fruendt in her pursuit of 1,000 career points. Her total stands at 969 entering Friday’s game against Geneva, which edged the visiting Bulldogs earlier this season and also is 4-2 in the league.
East scored 14 points in the third – its highest total of any quarter – but still fell behind as the Bulldogs pressured and scored. Batavia credits its practices, which include going against several junior boys who played under Jensen as freshmen.
Tuesday’s game ended East’s first trip through the conference. Although Jordan’s name and number, 12, appeared in a block-letter roster adjacent to one scoreboard, the Saints know she is not in uniform. Jordan, a three-year varsity player, left the team late last month due to what she called lingering issues with teammates.
“That type of thing happens all the time with teams that have injuries or whatever,” Drumtra said. “You’ve got to adjust. Hopefully by the midpoint of the season, you’re strong enough to deal with something like that. We’ve talked about making up those points, and there’s plenty of people that can score. So it’s just a matter of thinking that way, thinking that you can score.”
Streamwood, 5-1 in the conference, lost its first head-to-head meeting with the Saints and also is part of what is shaping up as a four-team fight for the UEC River title.
After Tuesday, Batavia now finds itself in the same mix – and eager to keep