Winnetka, Sports

New Trier’s historic run continues with second straight third-place finish and third straight 30-win season

Trevians winning percentage in last four seasons: 84.1

Letdowns are common in consolation games, but not much is common about the recent run of New Trier boys basketball.

The Trevians again stepped up when the chips were down, routing Palatine 53-35 on Friday, March 9, in the IHSA Class 4A third-place contest at the State Farm Center in Champaign, just about two hours after their heartbreaking loss to Homewood-Flossmoor in the semifinals.

“This was a total heart game,” New Trier coach Scott Fricke said after the win. “It would have been very easy for them to say, ‘We just lost a tough game, we were close to being in state championship,’ (but it changed) to ‘Let’s bring energy and enthusiasm to the game’ and boy did they ever.”

New Trier hoisted the third-place state trophy for the second consecutive season. This year was the first time in program history the Trevians advanced to the state finals in back-to-back seasons.


The Trevians rally around the third-place trophy won on Friday night.

The victory was also New Trier’s 30th, marking the third straight year the Trevians have reached the milestone. The feat is also a program first, as well as a rare occurrence in Illinois hoops history.

To get No. 30, New Trier put together a customary Trevians’ effort: game-changing three-point shooting and well-rounded scoring supported by a physical, stingy defense.

Six Trevians scored at least 8 points, with sophomore Danny Houlihan (4-of-6 from three) leading the way with 12. Junior Colby Smith added 9, while Chris Kirkpatrick, Logan Feller, Ian Brown and Will Leemaster tallied 8 apiece. Feller added 9 rebounds and 7 assists, while Brown grabbed 7 rebounds.

New Trier held Palatine to 32.5 percent shooting, including 7 percent (1 of 14) from the three-point arc. Pirates star Connor May, a first team All-Stater, was limited to just 7 points.

“We really wanted this one,” said Brown, a senior. “We knew we weren’t going to lose this one. Ending on a win is huge.”

Defining success

New Trier (4A) and Richwoods (3A), of Peoria, players gather for a photo of IHSA third-place winners.

In its history, New Trier basketball has qualified for the state finals 12 times and collected six state trophies: fourth place in both 2002 and 1996, third in 2023 and 2024, and second in 1973 (New Trier East) and 1921, according to the IHSA website.

Coming off its ’23 third-place finish, the Trevians lost All-State talent Jake Fiegen (Cornell University), as well as starters Evan Kanellos and Tyler Van Gorp to graduation. But it returned starters Feller and Smith and sixth man Brown.

Adding sophomore Kirkpatrick and senior Leemaster to the starting lineup, New Trier got off to a fast, 14-1 start to send a message that a dropoff was unlikely.

“It’s just such a winning culture here,” Brown explained. “Coaches push us every day. They never let us settle for average. I’ll carry with me the lessons I learned here for the rest of my life and apply them to my life and college basketball (at Carnegie Mellon). It’s been everything for me.”

Many wrote off New Trier after a rough stretch (4 losses in 7 games) in late January-early February, but the Trevians responded by ripping off seven straight wins, including dramatic sectional triumphs over rival Loyola Academy and Glenbrook North, to qualify for the state finals.

In their final nine games (eight victories), the Trevians allowed an average of 40.3 points per game. Their most allowed in that span was 51 points in a 15-point regional win.

“We have a (defensive) system and we run the system regardless of who we’re playing, and teams will try to take advantage of it (but) it gets them out of what they really want to do,” Fricke said. “… We switch a lot of screens and we just have to communicate and talk.

“Our defense just got better as the season went on, and the reason we went on the run is the defense we played in the last month.”

Fricke made sure to point out that while fun, sustained playoff runs are “a lot of work and not a lot of sleep” for his coaching staff who he said deserve a good chunk of credit for the team’s success. Fricke is backed by varsity assistant coaches David Brenner, Matt McCaffrey and Rick Malnati, as well as Andy Horne, Joe Mortier, Brian Van Mersbergen, Tyler Kurz and Pete Kadens.

Senior Ian Brown is greeted by Trevs coach Scott Fricke and assistant coach Matt McCaffrey after exiting his final game.

While New Trier is a celebrated high school program in Illinois, it has never achieved sustained success like it has over the past four seasons.

Since 2021, the Trevians have posted a 106-20 record (84.1 winning percentage) — 30-9 in 2023-’24, 33-5 in 2022-’23, 30-4 in 2021-’22 and 13-2 in a COVID-19-shortened 2020-’21. Prior to the run, New Trier had never won 30 games in a season. It has now done that three straight years — something very few teams in state history have accomplished.

It is also the first time the Trevians have advanced to the state finals in back-to-back years.

With New Trier losing floor general Logan Feller, as well as Brown and Leemaster, can it keep the streak going? Smith, with a smile, said “of course.”

And he presumably will return along with rising star Kirkpatrick, a second team All-State selection; Houlihan, a sharpshooter; and another new crop of Trevians who have been waiting in the wings.

Smith said another year of lengthy postseason play can only help next season.

“Postseason experience is not like the regular season,” he said. “Being in practice and these games, you kind of know what it takes to be great, coming down here twice in a row. So bringing that energy and knowledge to next year is definitely big.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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