Thompson helps Fremd pass test at Montini
Fremd sophomore guard Ellie Thompson can often get lost in the shuffle - on her own team.
The Vikings possess an abundance of talent in their rotation, with at least four college-bound players.
The diminutive Thompson is not even the most high-profile sophomore guard on the Vikings. That distinction belongs to Ella Todd, who has a number of Power Five offers.
Not only do the Vikings have a surplus of next-level skilled players, but the diversity of talent is an added bonus. The Vikings can attack teams with height and length, with Maddy Fay, Brynn Eshoo and Kace Urlacher.
Or the Vikings can speed up the game by relying on Todd and fellow sophomore guard Coco Urlacher.
But Thompson's perimeter shooting is an X-factor in Fremd's quest to win the Class 4A state championship. When Thompson is nailing shots from beyond the arc, it unlocks the Vikings' offense by opening up the middle for easy baskets and providing driving lanes for Todd and the Urlacher sisters.
On Monday, Thompson showed her worth to the Vikings, burying a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 9 points in a 59-46 win over Montini in Lombard.
The Vikings (21-2) picked up a game-high 20 points from Fay to stave off a furious third-quarter comeback by the Broncos (18-5). Eshoo, a fast-rising junior forward, tallied 12 points and Coco Urlacher had 8 points, including 2 big fourth-quarter blocks.
"(Montini) is a really good team, so when I can come out and hit my threes and have a good game, it helps the team," Thompson said. "We played well in the first half. It was exciting for me and the team."
Thompson made an impact in many ways against the highly ranked Broncos. She hit a 3-pointer to pad the Vikings' lead to 37-20 in the first minute of the third quarter. Her ballhandling and poise helped steady the Vikings when the Broncos' full-court pressure lowered the deficit to 44-42 early in the fourth. Thompson sparked a 7-0 run with a steal and lay-in high off the glass and free throw to provide a 47-42 cushion.
Thompson said she feels comfortable in pressure situations, especially after she toggled between the junior varsity and varsity last season.
"I enjoy playing with all my teammates," Thompson said. "They're all so good, so that makes me better as a player. It's exciting to play against these really good players. In practice, I'm getting better. I'm a shooter, so I can get those shots off in practice and that contributes in games."
Fremd coach Dave Yates said Thompson is thriving in his system.
"Ellie can knock down shots and has deep range," Yates said. "She can stretch defenses and force people to guard her, which is huge for Maddy and Brynn. If you are going to help, someone is going to be open. We did a good job locating who was open down the stretch tonight."
Fay said he was happy to pull out the win, especially with most of the NIU coaching staff in attendance. Fay won the battle of NIU recruits, as Montini senior guard Shannon Blacher is also set to play for the Huskies next season. Fay scored 12 of Fremd's first 21 points.
"I really wanted to beat them, and basically make fun of (Shannon)," Fay said, sporting a big smile. "It was a good win. We got it inside a lot and executed that well. We were passing the ball inside a lot. I thought I did a good job of making most of my shots early."
Montini showed toughness mounting a third-quarter comeback to nearly take the lead, but the Vikings hit some late free throws to end the threat. Fremd shot 15-of-18 on free throws.
"I thought we played really well in the first half," Yates said. "We were having our way with them. We told them Montini is a good team and they were going to answer. That's why we play this game, a really good team with a loud crowd. We struggled a bit, but gathered ourselves and calmed down and got that lead back. That's why we're here on a Monday night - to test ourselves."
Montini coach Shannon Spanos said the Vikings were a good test for her program to prepare them for the playoffs. Blacher led the Broncos with 16 points, Alyssa Epps had 10 points and Victoria Matulevicius scored 9.
"We did not come out strong and looked scared in the first half," Spanos said. "We talked to the girls at halftime about playing our type of basketball. They came out and played strong, and we came back from a 17-point (deficit). It was good to see our girls made that adjustment at halftime."