Jake Fiegen’s emphatic fourth-quarter slam dunk was fitting.
The one-handed jam put an exclamation mark at the end of a New Trier basketball era — concluding Fiegen’s record-breaking run with Trevians varsity basketball that came with 76 victories and ended with its biggest one: a third-place finish in IHSA Class 4A.
Fiegen and company enjoyed an unusually comfortable win in their season finale, besting Downers Grove North 53-34 in the consolation matchup Friday, March 10, inside the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center.
“It means a lot,” Fiegen said. “Thinking about last year, working so hard to end the season on a loss (in the sectional championship). This season is so different. Ending the season on a win is surreal.
“It’s the best. I love all these guys. These last few months have been some of the best of my life. It’s been amazing.”
In its history, New Trier basketball has now won five state trophies: fourth place in both 2002 and 1996, third in 1973 (New Trier East) and second in 1921, according to the IHSA website.
The Trevians came into the third-place game off a 64-49 semifinal loss to top-ranked Benet Academy just a few hours earlier on Friday, while Downers Grove North was outlasted by Moline, 50-36, in the following game.
With both teams looking to rebound, it was the Trevians who showed more life, jumping on top of the Trojans early and often.
“We said that we want to end the season the way that the season has gone for us. We don’t want to end losing two games in a row,” New Trier coach Scott Fricke said. “We said bring energy and effort to this game, and boy did they ever. … They were flying up and down the floor. It’s a tribute to these guys. This team is incredible.”
Both teams came out launching from the perimeter, combining for 20 three-point attempts in the first quarter alone. The Trevians, though, were on target, hitting five triples in the first to help build a 20-10 advantage.
Junior Logan Feller could sense the more open atmosphere.
“I think we were just looser,” he said. “We came out in the semifinal and felt how big the moment was and how much it meant. That excites us but you get nervous; it’s a big stage. I think here we came out and played with nothing to lose.”
Things only got better from there for the Trevians.
By halftime, their lead was up to 23 points at 38-15, thanks to a buzzer-beating corner three by Ian Brown, his third of the half.
New Trier’s lead reached its apex, 31 points, in the third quarter, and the Trevs slowed the game down and waited out the remaining time of the final two quarters to earn a third-place trophy.
Fiegen had a game-high 17 points to go with 5 rebounds. Sophomore Colby Smith chipped in 14, which included four 3-pointers. Feller had 4 points, 6 assists and 3 steals, and senior Tyler Van Gorp added 3 points and a pair of blocks.
Both teams got to empty their benches on the state’s biggest stage. The Trevians even took a technical foul for inserting injured non-rostered senior Ethan Cummings in the closing minute.
The third-place finish caps a remarkable three-year run for the Trevians. While New Trier is a celebrated high school program in Illinois, it has never achieved sustained success like it has over the past three years.
The Trevians posted a 76-11 record in that span — 33-5 in 2022-’23, 30-4 in 2021-’22 and 13-2 in a COVID-19-shortened 2020-’21. The past two years New Trier broke the program record for wins each season.
Despite losing four starters and seven rotation players to graduation, this year’s New Trier team won conference, regional and sectional championships; advanced to the state’s final four for the first time since 2002 (New Trier also advanced to the state finals in 2008, when it hosted eight teams.); and earned its best finish since 1973 (2nd, New Trier East).
Aside from talent in uniform, Fricke said his teams’ toughness has made it all happen.
“We made a big commitment to get stronger, to get quicker, to get faster,” he said. “And these guys were incredible in the weight room. Every weight lifting coach … said no one outworks these guys. And that was it.
“It’s been a conscious effort to be the toughest team on the floor, and that happens in the offseason.”
Fiegen has been vital to the Trevians’ recent and record-setting success. The Cornell University commit is a three-year varsity starter and three-year All-CSL South selection.
He was named the division’s player of the year and second team All-State by multiple groups this season— a season in which he also broke New Trier’s single-season points record (previously 708 by Rick Hielscher in 1991).
“He’s one of the best players in New Trier history,” Fricke said. “One of the hardest workers in New Trier history and one of the toughest kids in New Trier history. That’s a great combination. When your best player is your hardest worker, a great leader, you’re going to have success.”
Starters Van Gorp and Kanellos, as well as key reserves Jun Yoshitani and Quinn Finerty, also finished their final seasons with New Trier.
But the cupboard is far from empty. Juniors Logan Feller (All-Conference) and Ian Brown are set to return, as is sophomore Colby Smith. And a look at the lower levels shows a high level of success as well.
Feller said he and his fellow underclassmen learned plenty from the seniors that will carry into future seasons.
“I think their work ethic most of all,” he said. “Jake was an amazing player last year and stepped up so much in the weight room and expanding his game. I think that’s what I got to do. I just have to take those steps to get better.”
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