LOMBARD – Batavia had one of the state’s top girls basketball teams on the ropes most of Thursday afternoon, but Trinity got off the canvas late to pull out a 66-64 victory in a quarterfinal bout at the Montini Christmas Tournament.
“Everyone left on this side of the bracket and pretty much the whole tournament – there’s very little room for error,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “We’re going to think about the things at the end a little more – a rebound, a free throw, a turnover.”
Erin Bayram’s hook shot in the lane gave the Bulldogs (11-3) a 55-49 lead with more than 5 minutes left in the game, but the Blazers (13-0) didn’t wilt under pressure.
Annie McKenna (20 points) hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3 minutes remaining to put Trinity up, 59-57, then stole the ball on the ensuing inbounds, was fouled, and made a free throw to push the lead to three.
“Huge steal for a sophomore,” Trinity coach Ed Stritzel said. “We’re so lucky where we have such good [young] players. Amber Reese is a sophomore. [Kaitlin] Aylward’s a sophomore. Our future’s secure.”
Batavia twice pulled within one in the final minutes, but could get no closer. Reese came up with a big offensive rebound with 48 seconds left after DePaul-bound Lauren Prochaska (23 points) missed the second of two free throws. Seven seconds later, McKenna made a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game at 64-60.
Reese had four rebounds to help the shorter Blazers stay competitive on the boards. The Bulldogs had a 17-7 rebounding edge at one point, but wound up outrebounding Trinity, 32-28.
Hannah Frazier, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had six rebounds for Batavia to go along with 13 points.
Senior guard Liza Fruendt (25 points) helped the Bulldogs get off to a fast start. She connected from the left baseline just five seconds into the game, then hit a 35-foot shot at the first-quarter buzzer to put Batavia up, 15-14.
“Right as I released it, I was like, ‘It might be good,’ and then it went in,” Fruendt said.
Fruendt beat the buzzer again right before the half with a steal and layup, giving her 17 points in the first 16 minutes and forcing a defensive change by the Blazers from man-to-man to a box-and-one.
“We went to a combination defense and I thought that slowed her down a little bit,” Stritzel said.
Fruendt made two free throws with three minutes left in the third quarter to put Batavia up, 43-40.
After missing a 3-point try a short time later that would have put the Bulldogs up by six, she committed a foul trying to get the ball back.
Less than a minute later, she picked up her fourth foul.
“Honestly, I slowed myself down by getting into foul trouble,” Fruendt said.
The Bulldogs spent the next 5:43 with Fruendt on the bench. They had some trouble with full-court pressure during that span and made a few costly turnovers, but held onto the lead. They were still up 55-53 when Fruendt returned with 4:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I can’t be mad with how we played or our effort,” Jensen said. “I’m frustrated that we let it slip away, but we did that [against] a very good basketball team.”
Batavia returns to action at 3 p.m. today against Neuqua Valley.
“I think we’re all pretty disappointed,” Fruendt said. “We played our hearts out. We couldn’t have asked for a better game. I think at the end, if a couple things go the other way, it’s a different outcome.”