Dazzling season ends in third place finish for New Trier

Boys basketball wins third place in state hours after semifinal loss to Benet


Rob Lange

Trevians pose following their 53-34 victory over Downers Grove North, marking the first time in over 20 years the team played at state

Coming into Saturday’s game against Benet, the Trevians seemed like they couldn’t lose, winning 14 straight including tight games over tough teams throughout the playoffs. However, led by Dartmouth-committed Niko Abusara and Johns Hopkins-committed Brayden Fagbemi, who both scored 18 points, Benet’s shooting doomed New Trier.

Head coach Scott Fricke and the team knew this would be a problem coming in, but like the rest of the season, Benet’s offense couldn’t be stopped.

We were lucky enough to host the sectional, and we had so many people at our games this year it felt like the basketball team was doing something special

— Evan Kanellos

“They were 35-1 going into the game, so we knew they were a really good team,” said Fricke. “I thought we did a good job, but they shot the ball really well, and when they’re doing that they’re a very difficult team to beat.”

Despite a close first quarter, Benet was able to break away with a 20-4 run in the second quarter, and the Trevs struggled to make the game much closer in their 65-49 loss. New Trier tried to come back with a smaller lineup, featuring All-Conference guard Evan Kanellos, but Benet was quick to adjust.

“Down double digits, we really needed to pressure them with a quicker lineup to try to get the ball back, and they really took advantage of that,” said Kanellos. 

“Every time we started to chip in and feel like we had a little momentum, they would make a big play or something wouldn’t go our way.”

Even with the loss, playing such a big game at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was an unforgettable moment for the players and even the many fans who drove for hours to the game. Student-section tickets sold out almost immediately, and fans were there to support the team all through the night to watch their 53-34 victory over Downers Grove North.

“Just with how many fans you could fit into that building and how passionate everyone was, it was just a really cool experience,” said Kanellos. “We were lucky enough to host the sectional, and we had so many people at our games this year it felt like the basketball team was doing something special.”

As usual, CSL Player of the Year Jake Fiegen shined in front of the crowd, scoring 26 points to keep the Trevians in the game. Averaging 21.5 points this season, he was the focal point of the offense from day one, and made it possible for the team to carry over and even improve on their success from last year.

“I think because I’ve been in those situations before, I felt a lot more comfortable performing in front of a lot of people and under that pressure,” said Fiegen. “I was able to just be patient and also look for my shots, and I think rebounding was huge.”

Last year’s team was a hard one to beat. Led by current Dartmouth forward Jackson Munro, New Trier went 30-3 before losing the sectional game to a great Glenbrook South team. 

This year however, the Trevs beat GBS on an Evan Kanellos buzzer beater layup to advance to sectional finals. 

From there, it took a tight one-point win over GBN and a 54-48 victory over Libertyville to reach state.

“We lost seven out of our nine top guys and we came back and these guys didn’t want to lose,” said Fricke. “This year it was a different team. We wanted to play fast, and we pressured more defensively than we did last year.”

The team this season wasn’t super deep, with seven players playing critical minutes near the end of the playoff run. Center Tyler Van Gorp, CSL All-Conference guard Logan Feller, and sophomore starter Colby Smith all had key contributions throughout the postseason, and junior Ian Brown’s 36 point game on 12 three pointers was a highlight of the season.

Although unlikely, next year’s returners hope to make a run again next year.

“Especially the young guys, a lot of us have seen what it takes,” said Smith. “Fiegen has set a really nice example for what it takes to win, and this team has shown the younger guys, me included, something we can do next year.”