Fremd tops Benet to reach Morton finals
Fremd sophomore guard Ella Todd was an anxious observer on Wednesday.
After watching the Vikings' close victory over Batavia from the sidelines, Todd was eager to return to the court for Thursday's game against Benet in a key midseason battle of state powerhouses.
"It was horrible and hard to watch (Wednesday)," Todd said. "I was proud of my team for pulling off the win. I knew they could do it."
Todd made the most of her return to the court on Thursday, scoring a game-high 21 points to carry Fremd to a 63-50 victory over Benet in the semifinals of the 2nd Annual Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament.
Todd, who missed the entire Morton College tourney last season due to a sprained ankle, made the most of her first full Morton tourney game against the Redwings.
Todd said she was happy to finally play a complete game in the young, but prestigious tourney.
"It felt good to play well to make up for missing Wednesday's game," Todd said.
The Vikings (14-0) continued their unbeaten march with another sterling effort, beating the highly ranked Redwings (11-3) with precision passing, solid defense, attacking the glass and spreading out the scoring to set up a chance to win the tournament title for the second year in a row.
Fremd faces off against Geneva, which beat Naperville North in the first semifinal, in a repeat title game matchup set for 8:15 p.m. on Friday.
The Redwings defeated the Vikings 46-40 in last season's tourney title game. In Thursday's win, Fremd sophomore guard Ellie Thompson welcomed the open looks, burying three 3-pointers for 11 points. Maddy Fay chipped in with 14 points, Brynn Eshoo had nine points and Coco Urlacher finished with six to highlight Fremd's balanced inside-outside attack.
Benet senior point guard Lenee Beaumont tried to will her team back into the game, but struggled against Fremd's length and height. The Indiana recruit scored a team-high 15 points
"Ella (Todd) and Thompson made it harder by spacing the floor and Maddy is a load inside and we had a hard time guarding her," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "They did a really nice job. I thought we played pretty well, but got into foul trouble and tried to figure out what to do defensively to try and hide that and never really got a good answer."
Todd, who has multiple Division I offers, showed her worth to Dave Yates' team early against the Redwings. Todd stuffed the scoring column early with 12 points to stake the Vikings to a 30-21 lead late in the second quarter. The 6-footer capped a first-half highlight show by hitting a short floater late in the half to pad her total to 14 points to give the Vikings a 32-25 lead.
Without Todd on Wednesday, the Vikings suffered lapses of bad possessions and weren't able to build any momentum without a key ballhandler and perimeter scoring threat to take the pressure off their talented frontcourt. The return of Todd unlocked Fremd's offense, as that forced Benet to spread their defense, allowing driving lanes for Todd and her teammates to attempt high-percentage close shots.
Battling a taller, longer and more experienced team in Fremd, the Redwings struggled scoring in the paint and finding open looks on the perimeter.
"My teammates did a great job of finding me," Todd said. "I give them a lot of credit. I had a good mindset. I focused on what we needed to do to win this game."