By: Luke Drase
Coming into the season, New Trier was one of the most intriguing teams in the northern suburbs. The Trevians only had 15 wins season, but almost pulled off an upset in last years regional title game against Loyola.
With almost all of their major pieces from last season returning, expectations were unsurprisingly high, but New Trier still needed to prove that they were able to compete with the top teams in the state.
Thursday night’s gritty, 63-56 win over Maine South to open up conference play went a long way to help erase the doubts that people may have had about New Trier, while also giving them a leg up in what is sure to be a tight conference race.
“Even though it’s still early in the season, it’s still a big game because our conference is just loaded this year. Every game we play is going to be a battle like that,” said New Trier head coach Scott Fricke. “It was just good to fight through some adversity, that’s good early in the season we got down a couple of times but we didn’t panic and we came back.”
“We came in focused tonight. One of our goals is to win all five games on our home floor and we did that tonight,” added New Trier guard Brian Conaghan. “It’s really important to start off 1-0, we only get 10 chances and we didn’t want to let one slip tonight.”
Most of the media attention surrounding New Trier has highlighted the huge front line of 6’9″ Ciaran Brayboy, 6’8″ Spencer Boehm and 6’5″ Griffin Ryan, and rightfully so.
Against Maine South, it was Boehm who got New Trier rolling early on, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half. Boehm put his entire game on display, not only getting baskets in the post, but even showing off his mid-range and three point range.
The Trevians and the Hawks would go back and forth for the entirety of the first half, but early fouls to Brayboy, and both New Trier starting guards, Brian Conaghan and Andrew Kirkpatrick forced the New Trier bench to step up.
Noah Osher and Sam Silverstein both rose to the challenge to play important first half minutes for the Trevians. Osher scored all five of his points in the second quarter to help New Trier take a 29-28 halftime lead.
Fricke said: “Noah can flat out shoot the ball. He’s getting used to the speed of varsity basketball and he’s going to be a good player for us. I thought Sam Silverstein came in and did a great job getting us into our offense and keeping us composed.”
The second half started with a 6-0 Maine South run to put the Hawks up 34-29 before Conaghan and Kirkpatrick finally settled back in after sitting for much of the first half.
The backcourt duo showed off their defensive and athletic ability, preventing the dribble drive of Maine South’s Michael George (9 points) and Essam Hamwi (11 points) to get some key stops for New Trier.
“We’re pressuring a lot this year, and other teams don’t like that,” said Conaghan. “I mean, we don’t like it either so we know it works on them and with Ciaran, Spencer and Griffin down low, it’s hard to finish over them which allows us to get up and pressure a little bit.”
The defense led to an offensive outburst for New Trier. Conaghan and Kirkpatrick both hit huge three pointers which was then followed by a Kirkpatrick floater to New Trier a 41-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Maine South would once again retake the lead in the fourth quarter after a three point play from Hamwi, but New Trier responded straight away with back to back three point baskets from Conaghan and Griffin Ryan.
The final nail in the coffin was one last Kirkpatrick triple before the Trevians closed out the game by going 8-8 from the free throw line to seal the 63-56 win.
Coach Fricke said: “I mean, Maine South is a really good team both offensively and defensively. I just thought we got some big stops and rebounds when we needed too, and we hit some big shots down the stretch.”
Kirkpatrick had a game high 18 points with Conaghan and Boehm adding 13 points each. Maine South was led in scoring by Grant Miller with 17.
Both teams will have over a week off before resuming conference play next Friday. New Trier will be away at Niles West, while Maine South will have their first home game against Evanston.