Undefeated doesn’t even begin to fully describe Fremd’s dominance this season. Vikings coach Bob Widlowski can rattle off the few times his team trailed in a game this season.
“We’ve been trailing in three or four games this year,” Widlowski said. “We were down by one, four, five one time. But not for very long.”
Fremd was trailing by three late in the game on Wednesday in Mount Prospect, but senior Kyle Sliwa scored three consecutive baskets to put the Vikings back in front. He scored a game-high 23 points to lead Fremd to a 57-55 win against Prospect in the Mid-Suburban League championship game.
“I played a good first half and then didn’t even score in the third quarter,” Sliwa said. “They came back, took the lead. I didn’t want it to be my fault that we lost so I just started shooting more and not messing up.”
The Vikings (26-0) played a more uptempo style to open the game. But in the final minutes, clinging to a 54-48 lead, they went back to the style that has made them so difficult to beat this season. Most teams struggle when their offensive goal is to kill clock, to Fremd it is like slipping into a second skin.
“We went back to what we normally do, hold the ball and work it for a good shot,” Fremd senior Shaan Patel said. “When we get up on teams it is hard for them to comeback. Work the ball and hit our free throws.”
Patel does a little bit of everything for the Vikings. He’s the rim protector, rebounder and can step out and handle the ball. He finished with six points, nine rebounds and three blocks, but was nearly the goat.
Patel turned the ball over on consecutive inbounds plays in the final seconds. But then he redeemed himself by tipping away Prospect’s final pass of the game, denying them a chance at a game-tying shot.
“It was a nice recovery,” Patel said. “We wanted the undefeate season. When I was a freshman the varsity team went undefeated and we were trying to live up to that.”
That 2014 Fremd team is the last team in the area to finish undefeated in the regular season.
“[Undefeated] was important, but not completely important,” Sliwa said. “None of us have ever been to the conference championship so we were more focused on that.”
Frankie Mack led Prospect (22-5) with 15 points. David Swedura scored 14 and Matt Szuba added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Luke Schoffstall scored 12 and Brian Dompke added 10 points and four rebounds for the Vikings. The starting five, which also includes junior Ryan Martin, has functioned like a well-oiled machine all season.
“I have seniors,” Widlowski said. “They are very coachable and they listen.”
Now the attention turns to a playoff run. Prospect and Fremd could possibly meet again in the sectional final.