Fremd has a little bit of history when it comes to Redbird Arena.
The Vikings made the trip down to Bloomington-Normal in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and came away with a fourth place trophy, and two runner-up trophies.
2020 was a little different.
Fremd finally climbed the mountain top by beating Lincoln-Way West in the state title game by a score of 58-47.
“I’m just really excited for this group, I’ve never coached a closer group of kids that just care about each other,” said Fremd head coach Dave Yates. “It’s going to sound weird, but the goal was never to win state. The goal all throughout playoffs was play the next game and get to hang around three or four more days together.”
“I think we’re really just excited to make the other Fremd girls basketball players proud,” added senior Olivia Hill. “Hayley Gorecki, Grace Tworek, it’s just so amazing that we can be apart of something that cool as well.”
The Vikings were led by their senior leaders Emily Klaczek and Olivia Hill. Both were on Fremd’s 2017 as Freshman and came through when their team needed them the most.
Klaczek finished the night with 20 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter while also going 10-11 from the free throw line from on the night.
“So huge, so huge,” said Hill, answering Klaczek’s question for her. “Every single time Emily goes up to the line, we’re like oh she’s got it. I think she missed like one of 25.”
Hill, hit arguably the biggest shot of the night. With Fremd leading by one, she hit a three to put the Vikings up four and sparked the late run that led to the title. Which was especially impressive when you consider the fact that she only hit seven all year.
Hill said: “I mean I was kind of open, and I’ve shot a couple before and why not I hope it goes in, and it did.”
“She’s Ms. clutch, she just makes plays like that,” added Kalczek.
Defensively, Fremd put the finishing touch on an incredible string of defensive performances against first-team all-staters.
Four the fourth time in four games, Fremd did well to limit one of the best players in the state. This time, it was Taylor Gugliuzza who got the Fremd treatment as she was held below her season average and only put up nine shot attempts.
Just one day after combining for 52 points, the Gugliuzza trio were held to 36 points on 8/28 shooting.
“I thought defensively we started switching a lot of their stuff,” said Yates. “That helped us prevent penetration. They were killing us with penetration and fouls and I thought in the second half we just calmed down a little bit offensively and defensively.”
And at the core of it all, is head coach Dave Yates. Though he’s never been one to take credit, the program at Fremd wouldn’t be where it is today without his leadership, and that impact can be seen through his players.
“He’s wanted this more than anything,” said Klaczek. “I’m surprised it came this late but we’re happy to give it to him. That man deserves everything.”
Hill added: “When I came off the court my favorite moment of that game was giving Mr. Yates a hug. I could tell it really does mean the world to him.”
With such a wild ride of a basketball season, in the most wide open of fields in years, it seems only fitting that the team who lost back to back games to Lyons and Nazareth and who were plagued with injuries throughout the season were the ones to make it out on top.
It just may take a little bit of time to process.
“It hasn’t set in, I’m still in coach mode,” concluded Yates. “It will set in at some point though.”