Sectionals loss terminates record-breaking season

Three points cost them the game, but their endless spirit won them friends for life


Peter Kanellos

Junior Jake Fiegen plays offense against GBS senior Nick Martinelli during their sectional final on Mar. 4.

The final seconds tick with a frantic shot sailing towards the rim. Held breaths hush the crowd as the timer buzzes. The resounding swish was never heard.

Boys varsity basketball recently ended their season with a 55-52 loss on Mar. 4 in their sectional final against Glenbrook South High School (GBS).

This was an unexpected loss, as the team played well the first two quarters. Senior Cole Handleman said they were up 16-8 in the first quarter, and went into halftime with a 24-22 lead.

“We were all pretty confident. Defensively we were playing well, and offensively we were getting good shots. Third quarter was when the tide started to change. GBS was hitting some big shots, and we were missing some close ones,” said Handleman.

“This was the best team I’ve ever been on not only skill wise, but personality wise. I was basically family with some of these kids who I didn’t even know at all.”

— Cole Handleman

Junior Evan Kanellos said that by the third quarter, the boys were down by around 8 points, but senior Josh Kirkpatrick made some big shots to bring their loss down to 3 points with 4 seconds left in the game.

“In those final seconds, we had a chance to tie it. Karlo Colak, he’s a senior, made a shot, but the shot didn’t fall,” said Evan.

In general, the boys had an off game for shooting. This made playing catch-up difficult in the fourth quarter.

“I thought the game could have gone either way. Everyone knew that it was going to come down to the last final possession. I think the difference was that they just made more shots than we did. Which could happen on any given night– you could have a good shooting night or you may not,” he said.

Their star player Jackson Munro, a senior committed to Dartmouth, was made a target by GBS.

“GBS was doubling Jackson Munro, so whenever Jackson touched the ball, they would send two guys to guard him, which made it impossible for him to score. It kind of threw us off, and we had a big scoring drought,” said Evan.

The team also didn’t gain any favors from the refs. The refs called around 25 fouls against New Trier, and around 8 fouls against GBS.

“Some of our really good players were on the bench with foul troubles. So I think that definitely hurt us,” said Handleman.

One of the most impactful fouls was one called against Josh Kirkpatrick towards the end of the game.

“At that point, while GBS was inbounding, we were putting our full court press on to try to steal the ball. But one of their guys, Cooper Nord, actually pushed off of Josh to get open, which should have been an offensive foul. It would have been our ball and we would’ve had a chance to win the game,” said Peter.

While the struggle to make successful shots and trouble with the refs didn’t help the team, head coach Scott Fricke said they played a strong game overall.

“We took 21 more shots than they did, and normally when you take shots in a team, you’re going to win. We had less turnovers, and we all rebounded them,” said Fricke.

The boys had the strongest season compared to any prior New Trier basketball team. They finished their season with a record of 30 wins and 4 losses. 

“Everyone was just the best they could be. This was the best team I’ve ever been on not only skill wise, but personality wise. I mean, we were all so close. By the end of the year, I was basically family with some of these kids who I didn’t even know at all,” said Handleman.

The boys have established a community where it never mattered who scored the most points. Senior Mateo Miller said that everyone is valued equally on the team.

“There’s no hierarchy on the team. I think I was by far one of the worst players on the team athletically and skill wise, but I brought other things to the team. I brought humor, I brought positivity, I’d help rebound, I’d get waters, I’d do anything for those guys,” he said.

One of the highlights of their season was their trip to Arizona in December for a championship game against Horizon High School. They won 70-58.

“That was a big time to bond for us as a team. We all got really close. After our game we stayed an extra two days, so we spent a lot of time playing mini golf or just hanging out,” said Evan.

The team had high hopes of winning the state championship, but the memories they’ve made throughout their season made its ending bittersweet.

“Our team definitely has no regrets in anything we did. We worked as hard as we possibly could,” said Handleman. “No matter the outcome of the game, we’re all still best friends and will continue to be throughout our lives. We’re just happy we got to do this together.”