Batavia girls hoops team nabs first regional crown since 1990

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 11:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 6:50 a.m. CDT

BATAVIA – A few members from the last Batavia girls basketball team to win a regional title showed up to Thursday’s IHSA Class 4A Batavia Regional final, hoping to witness history repeat itself 24 years later.

“I didn’t know anyone [on that team],” Batavia senior guard Liza Fruendt said. “Erin [Bayram] did, actually, and one of them she babysits for, I think. She sent Erin the picture [from 1990] this morning, and that was the text I woke up to this morning. It’s pretty cool.”

Fruendt’s day only looked up from there. The Bulldogs put on a great show for their predecessors, ripping Willowbrook, 63-42, to capture the regional title on their home floor.

Batavia will plan a scouting mission today to watch the York Regional final between Downers Grove North and York, the winner of which will play the Bulldogs in Tuesday’s Addison Trail Sectional semifinal.

The Bulldogs (20-9) cut down the nets, then posed for a long stream of photos to commemorate what coach Kevin Jensen considered a landmark night for his program.

“We’re building to a place where we hope we’re in contention year in and year out, but that’s not necessarily where we’ve been,” Jensen said. “It’s a big deal.”

After a sluggish start for third-seeded Batavia – sixth-seeded Willowbrook led 9-2 and 11-4 – the Bulldogs wrestled command behind a typically strong night for Fruendt (24 points) and a less predictable outburst from sophomore forward Hannah Frazier (22 points, 11 rebounds).

With Bayram saddled with foul trouble throughout, Frazier kept the Bulldogs productive in the paint, converting nine straight field goal attempts during a prolonged stretch covering parts of the second, third and fourth quarters.

“She went to work, honestly,” Fruendt said. “That’s what we’ve been telling her all year, ‘You’ve got to do that every single game.’ It was nice for her to show up and show out tonight. She just went into beast mode, honestly. She just didn’t back down to anyone, and I’m really proud of her and the rest of the team.”

The 22 points weren’t a career high for Frazier but Thursday was unquestionably one of the sophomore’s finest performances.

“We did a good job of reversing the ball, and when we moved it around a lot, I got a lot of inside looks from reversals and ball screens, so that was great,” Frazier said. “I just felt that once I got into the groove, it was easy to keep going.”

Batavia led, 27-22, at halftime, then gained separation during the third quarter, building a 17-point advantage entering the fourth.

It was the kind of dominant showing the Bulldogs uncorked multiple times during the season, but not so much down the stretch. Batavia went 2-3 in its final five regular season games and barely edged Streamwood to share a conference title it seemed likely the Bulldogs would win outright entering February.

Jensen said regaining the team’s form in time for regionals was mostly a matter of remaining calm.

“I think we just had faith in the process,” Jensen said. “We kept practicing hard. We never changed anything. We never did anything different in practice, we just kept practicing hard, kept trying to do all the right things. In the grand scheme of things, teams have good games and bad games. We didn’t have too many bad games, so I didn’t feel like it was time to panic.”

Willowbrook (23-5) was led by forward Josie Zabran, who scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half.

Perhaps channeling his ties to Batavia’s state championship football program, Jensen said this year’s team has gone beyond winning games, also forging deeper connections with youth players in town through the “Bulldog Buddy Club.”

“Somebody in grade school’s going ‘I want to wear Liza’s number, I want to wear Hannah’s number, I want to wear Erin’s number,’” Jensen said. “That’s where we get to.”

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