ADDISON – Few players can light up a scoreboard like Liza Fruendt.
But if the Batavia girls basketball team is going to continue to advance in postseason play against increasingly stiffer competition, the Bulldogs will need other players to carry some of the offensive load.
In a Class 4A sectional semifinal Tuesday night at Addison Trail, that player was sophomore Hannah Frazier.
The 6-foot-2 post player scored 21 points, including the biggest 3 of the night, as Batavia edged Downers Grove North, 57-52.
The Bulldogs (21-9) appeared to be in control of the contest with more than five minutes left when Fruendt (31 points) buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Batavia a 52-39 lead. But the Trojans (26-3) scored the next 13 points to tie the game.
“I think that’s just what good teams do,” Fruendt said. “That’s a good team. They did it all year to teams, but in the end … we got the stops we needed.”
One of those came with less than a minute to play when the Mustangs had a chance to take the lead. Freshman Mackenzie Foster came down with a big rebound for the Bulldogs, who ultimately called timeout to set up a play to get the ball inside to Frazier. Things didn’t work out as well as Batavia coach Kevin Jensen planned, but Frazier made it work anyway, even after missing her initial shot.
“She had a good seal, went up and got the rebound and went right back up,” Jensen said. “It didn’t matter if she was giving up any size. She had the leverage. That ball was going to go in.”
The play was actually designed to run to the right side of the basket, but Frazier recognized the ball had gone to the left instead and beat her defender to the post on the left side of the basket.
“I just decided I was going to take [the shot] and hope for the best,” she said. “I missed the first one, but I just kept with it and put it back up and it worked out.”
With fouls to give, the Bulldogs fouled Sarah Costello (19 points) when she got the ball on the next possession, so Downers Grove North called a timeout to try to set up a 3-point try for Jaida Green. Her shot was well off the mark and Fruendt grabbed the rebound, her ninth of the game, to secure the victory. Her two free throws with four-tenths of a seconds left accounted for the final margin.
“We knew we could win this game,” Fruendt said. “We just dug deep. We dug as low as we could in our hearts tonight to get this victory. It’s really meaningful for us and our program.”
Batavia has never won a sectional championship, but will have a chance Thursday when it faces familiar foe Geneva at Addison Trail.
“It’s super exciting,” Frazier said. “It’s cool to make history with the team. It’s such an amazing group of girls. We just want to keep winning to stay together.”
Green, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, scored 17 points for Downers Grove North. She hit a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s opening moments to put the Trojans up 6-0 and Batavia played catch-up the rest of the half, trailing 31-27 at the break.
The third quarter was decisive, with the Bulldogs opening the period on a 13-2 run to open up a 40-33 lead.
“I said [at halftime], ‘If you were wanting to make a big-time play this year, this would be the game to do it in,’ ” Jensen said. “That was pretty much it. I’d like to say it was coaching, but I know it wasn’t. They’ve been resilient all year. We just keep doing what we’re doing and we think we’ll have a chance to win in the end.”
The Bulldogs battled the Trojans evenly on the boards, with Frazier and Erin Bayram each grabbing seven rebounds.
After a pair of exciting finishes in the semifinals, Thursday’s sectional championship game is shaping up as an epic moment in the long Batavia-Geneva rivalry. The Bulldogs swept the regular-season series but the teams shared the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title.
“I’m excited,” Fruendt said. “They’re playing really good right now, winning 10 or 11 in a row. And I think we’re playing really good right now, and it’s going to be a fun game. I’m sure this gym will be insane.”