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Batavia girls basketball nearly knocks off unbeaten Trinity

Batavia’s Liza Fruendt drives to the basket during Thursday’s game against Trinity at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard.
Batavia’s Liza Fruendt drives to the basket during Thursday’s game against Trinity at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard.

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.”

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