VILLA PARK – Batavia lost its sixth girls basketball game of the season Monday, ultimately struggling to match Joliet Catholic’s athleticism in a McDonald’s Shootout matinee.
The Bulldogs absorbed loss No. 6 of the 2012-13 season in late December, so in some respects, players could feel at peace about falling, 63-55, to the unbeaten Angels.
Still leading the race to unseat rival Geneva as Upstate Eight Conference River Division champions, Batavia (14-6) hung around against the Class 3A state contender. Ideally, the Bulldogs will channel the experience when the Class 4A postseason begins next month.
“We’ve got to dig deep and try to pull one out here,” Bulldogs senior guard Liza Fruendt said. “All of our what, six losses, have been really competitive every time. So I think this will only help us in the end, and it’s going to help us in our conference play, mostly.”
Joliet Catholic (19-0) boasted a formidable reputation even during pregame introductions. The public address announcer hailed three underclassmen starters as “considered by many” to be among the nation’s top prospects at their respective grade levels.
One known commodity, 6-foot senior Jasmine Lumpkin, is headed to Michigan State.
The Bulldogs heard the accolades shortly after their own intro – Fruendt went as “Leeza” for the game’s early stages – but didn’t flinch. With Fruendt (Missouri State) and senior forward Erin Bayram (Boston University) also bound for NCAA Division-I schools, why should they?
With several college coaches looking on, Batavia sophomore forward Hannah Frazier struck for a career-high 25 points and added 15 rebounds. Coach Kevin Jensen suggested there was “still a lot of meat on the bone there,” lamenting not getting Frazier a few more touches as the Angels fronted the post.
“They were definitely really great athletes, all of them, and they have a lot of size,” Frazier said. “But I think with me and Erin – and a lot of our small girls play bigger than they are – and with Jensen preparing us all week, we were able to play physical. And we weren’t intimidated.”
Ditto for the Angels. Like many in attendance, they had heard the buzz surrounding Fruendt’s 51-point outburst Friday night against Geneva.
“Oh yeah, I was aware she was a great player. So we just had to take her our of her rhythm a little bit with our pressure,” said Lumpkin, who guarded Fruendt most frequently.
Fruendt scored 17 of her 22 points after halftime, including Batavia’s first 13 of the third quarter.
“She got it going a little bit in the second half,” Jensen said. “She’s just one of those players … that is going to do her best to make sure we don’t lose a game.”
A Frazier basket with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter brought Batavia to within 43-40, but the Bulldogs came no closer.
Batavia went scoreless for the first 2:56 of the fourth quarter. Sophomore Nicole Ekhomu (19 points) and Lumpkin (17) finished in double figures for Joliet Catholic, which outrebounded Batavia, 54-35, and matched the Bulldogs with 10 steals.
“Our defensive pressure really allowed us to get this win,” Lumpkin said.
The Bulldogs remained in their locker room for a few minutes after the coaches left. They won’t see the Angels again until another possible shootout or nonconference game, but they won’t cast aside lessons from this meeting, either.
“In the beginning, everybody was just so focused and locked in. You could just tell we came ready to play,” Fruendt said. “I think as the game went on, we stayed that way even as we fell behind.”