Dogged ‘Dogs take early River lead
As Batavia and the rest of its Upstate Eight Conference River Division counterparts take a break from league play, the Bulldogs are showing no less intensity.
“Every year, you kind of feel a different dynamic, and every girls wants it more than anything this year,” senior point guard Liza Fruendt said. “We’re all just very tied together, and it’s just a different dynamic. Everyone works so hard every single day, and when you have 11 girls working hard every single day, good things are only going to come out from it.”
Batavia carried only eight players on last season’s team but still prospered, jumping from 13 victories to 18 while challenging for the UEC River crown until late in the season.
Fruendt and senior post Erin Bayram – best friends since elementary school – pledged to make the most of their final campaign together during summer workouts. Committing to NCAA Division I programs just before the season – Bayram to Boston University, Fruendt to Missouri State – only stoked the urgency.
“Honestly, since we’re such a young team, we have fire in our belly,” Bayram said. “We want to prove that we’re the team to beat, and we just want to go out there every game and have fun and just enjoy.”
Batavia has zoomed to a 3-0 start in UEC River play, including its first victory against Geneva since the 2007-08 season.
BC seeks earlier bursts
While Burlington Central enters next week’s Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament with a 9-0 record, the Rockets have had to channel their resilience more often than coach Mark Smith would like.
BC recovered from sluggish starts against Hampshire and Rockford Christian last week, but is hoping to keep cruising behind more even play.
“We’re looking for some consistency,” Smith said “We’re starting off games a little bit slow, and you can’t do that at Dundee-Crown. We’ve got to hopefully learn our lesson.”
In addition to the Rockets, who won 27 games and reached a 3A supersectional last season, top competition at Dundee-Crown includes Barrington, Evanston, New Trier and Prospect.
In your face
Natasha Brown’s eye-popping rebounding totals haven’t been the only constant during Aurora Christian’s early-season surge.
Harassing – and fluctuating – defense also has helped the Eagles win seven of their first 10 games entering this week. Aurora Christian has allowed no more than 48 points in its current four-game winning streak.
“The defense is starting to come together again,” Eagles coach Jerry Tokars said. “We’re usually a pretty strong defensive team. Our defense is once again showing its colors, which is good.”
Aurora Christian always has played a combination of defenses under Tokars and continues that trend, showing looks in man-to-man, man-press and zone-press depending on matchups and situations.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
IN THE GROOVE
Batavia, Sr., G
What she did: Fruendt contributed a career-high 37 points in Monday’s 76-53 win against Proviso East at the Oswego Tournament. On Saturday, she opened the tournament with 24 points to help the Bulldogs defeat Naperville Central.
Geneva, Jr., F
What she did: Provided plenty of production inside to give Geneva its first Upstate Eight Conference River Division win. McCloughan tallied a game-high 19 points to boost the Vikings past St. Charles East, 60-38, on Friday.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
The Geneva-St. Charles East rivalry is trending away from nail-biters. The Vikings have won comfortably in the past two meetings after the teams split a pair of overtime games during the 2012-13 regular season. Geneva cruised by 22 points at home Friday, and will go for the season sweep when it visits East on Jan. 25.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
More about how teams fare in holiday tournament play. It’s beginning to look a lot like the middle of the regular season, as brackets come into view more than conference standings, at least in the short-term. Morning tip-offs and hospitality rooms also enter the equation.
COACH SLY SAYS
That’s some mighy fine roundball being played on Rocket Hill, with just one loss between Burlington Central’s girls and boys teams with almost two-thirds of December gone.
Many expected a sterling run from the BC girls after last season’s breakthrough, but there’s something to be said about keeping up appearances, too, especially with a young team.
Sly’s excited to see how the Rockets respond in the Dundee-Crown tourney and beyond.