About a year ago, New Trier basketball coach Scott Fricke called the 2021-’22 Trevians, “the best team in the history of New Trier.”
That’s a tough act to follow, especially losing six of the team’s top seven players to graduation. This year’s Trevians needed an edge. So they got “mean.” And now they’re headed to the state finals.
Prior to the season, the Trevians (32-4) chose the word “mean” as their mantra, and they have carried that on-court persona to a program-record for wins, the latest of which was a 54-48 victory against Libertyville (29-6) in an IHSA Class 4A Super-sectional Monday, March 6, at Now Arena in Hoffman Estates.
“It’s crazy. I don’t know what to say,” New Trier senior Tyler Van Gorp said. “Last year, we lost so much, and this year it’s crazy we’ve been able to rebound and get down state.”
New Trier was coming off two straight physical and dramatic sectional victories against well-known opponents.
Seeing an unfamiliar opponent was a welcome sight for Fricke and company.
“It was nice to play a team that doesn’t know everything that you run,” Fricke said. “And we don’t know everything that they run. It was more of a true basketball game rather than a grind-it-out kind of game.”
The difference was clear early as New Trier found more open space around the perimeter than it had in either sectional matchup.
The Trevians buried five first-half 3-pointers, including a pair each for Jake Fiegen and Ian Brown. Logan Feller added No. 5.
Van Gorp, New Trier’s 6-foot-10 center, got his as well, scoring 6 points in the first half — including a rim-rocking, two-handed slam — to help his team to a 27-16 advantage over Libertyville at halftime.
“It was just being patient and looking for our shots on offense, not being too sped up,” Van Gorp said, adding “I thought I was getting some good looks right away .”
All the while, the Trevians’ defense was its normal, stingy self, allowing just 16 points in the half with only two of them coming from Wildcats standout Aidyn Boone.
Fiegen was Boone’s primary defender, but the Trevians are a switching defense and Fricke noted that everyone on the floor must contribute.
“It’s not one guy that guards a guy. It’s five guys that guard. It’s a team,” Fricke said. “There’s got to be people that are helping. … It’s something we’ve worked a lot on, our defense, the past couple years and it’s shown.”
Libertyville used the third quarter to cut into New Trier’s lead, pulling within four points, 33-29, late in quarter.
With the final shot of the quarter, though, the Trevians worked the ball to Ian Brown (15 points), who buried his fourth 3-pointer of the evening just before the buzzer.
“Ian had some huge shots. When we were losing some momentum, he hit a big shot.” Fricke said, who also singled out the defense of reserve Jun Yoshitani. “I thought everyone came in and gave us good options, and that’s a tough team to guard because of their size.”
The Wildcats would not go away, forcing five fourth-quarter Trevians’ turnovers and getting to 38-33 with about 4 minutes to play.
New Trier, however, was up to the challenge. Van Gorp (11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) picked up two more buckets in the fourth, and the Trevians converted 13 of 19 free throws in the period to ice the supersectional victory.
“That was a stressful game. So I don’t really realize what’s going on,” Fricke said immediately following the win. “But I’m so proud of the kids. It’s not easy to play with a lead with a lot on the line, but we took care of the ball and made free throws, and now it’s time to go to Champaign.”
The last time the Trevians advanced to the state finals was in 2002, when the finals welcomed eight teams. New Trier topped a Dee Brown- and Shannon Brown-led Proviso East squad before bringing home a fourth-place trophy.
New Trier may have to pull off some magic again, as it opens the finals against arguably the top team in Class 4A Benet Academy at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, at the the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign. Downers Grove North and Moline round out the 4A final four.
“They’re the best team in the state,” Fricke said of Benet. “I’ve seen them play. We played against them this summer. They’ve got every piece to the puzzle. It’s going to be a battle.
“But put us against anybody right now. We’ll play ’em.”
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