Coaches: Buch, Fritz all-state
Mick Flattery remembers the summer of 2014 well.
Sam Fritz had just finished a strong first season as a starting guard for Flattery’s Fairfield Trojans.
Nicole Buch was an incoming freshman.
“You just try and establish some team chemistry in the summer with practices, scrimmages and games,” Flattery said. “But when I watched the way Sami and Nicole were working together I thought, ‘Holy Cow! This will work out good.’ ”
With Buch and Fritz as key cogs, Fairfield won Southeast Conference championships in 2015 and 2017.
On Monday, the Iowa Girls Coaches Association honored both Buch and Fritz with Class 4A All-State Second Team honors, signifying each as being among the top 14 players in Iowa.
“This really is a special honor for both Nicole and Sami to be put in a class with such excellent players,” Flattery said. “This says a lot about the work ethic each of them has. The coaches had no hesitation about giving them this honor. We had a great season (16-6, 8-0) and those two have had great careers.”
The senior Fritz finished with 639 career rebounds, averaging close to 10 per contest. That’s a terrific accomplishment for a 6-foot-1 post.
But Fritz is not a 6-foot-1 post. She’s a 5-foot-8 guard. And for quite a bit of her career, she was 5-foot-6, 5-foot-7.
But Fritz collects rebounds like postmen collect letters. And Fritz does this out of sheer tenacity, picture-perfect technique and raw hustle.
“Sami is the best rebounder I’ve had in my six, seven years coaching this program,” Flattery said. “Unfortunately, they did not do a good job keeping rebounding stats before me.”
In all likelihood, Fritz is the No. 1 all-time 5-on-5 Trojan girls’ basketball rebounder.
And she scored, too.
On Jan. 24, Fritz was the second Trojan ever to surpass 1,000 career points.
And she was a threat to score in a variety of ways. Fritz was deadly from beyond the arc. She posted up opponents, shook one way, went the other and dropped in the deuce.
And with her speed, she was a perpetual option on Fairfield fast breaks. Quite often, after a steal, she led those breaks.
“Sam was so much fun to watch,” said Buch, now a junior. “There were three or four games in a row this season where she was on fire. But, honestly, she never had a bad game. Her rebounding stood out and was so important to our success.”
Buch is the 5-8 point guard who, if perfect records could have been kept, would be finishing out her career in 2018 as the all-time Trojan assists leader.
She’s a magician with the ball.
Her no-look, John Stockton-type of feeds energized her teammates and Trojan fans.
The Nicole Buch Scoop, a drive-and-fly shot which either goes in or draws a foul (and then two canned free throws), leaves opponents shaking their heads in agonizing frustration.
But if you try and stop Buch’s drive, she’ll make you pay from outside. The sharp- shooting Buch makes string music from beyond the arc.
“Nicole has ‘The Scoop,’ the 3-point field goal and her free-throw shooting as weapons,” Flattery said. “And she’ll keep getting better. She has loved basketball all her life.”
Said Fritz, “Nicole’s ability to penetrate really stood out to me. She has these sneaky moves to the hoop and she always faked out a lot of people.”
Buch scored Career Point 1,000 on Feb. 10. Should she average 17 points per game next season, a reasonable assumption since Buch averaged that this year, she’d retire as Fairfield’s all-time leading scorer.
“But an outstanding trait of both Nicole and Sami is they are team-first players, not worried about their personal stats,” Flattery said. “Our team did need them both to shoot the ball. They were both well over 33 percent from beyond the 3-point line. They’d both get to the free-throw line, too, and were both excellent free-throw shooters.
“But when either of them was double teamed, they’d both gladly kick it out and trust a teammate.”
The on-court chemistry between Buch and Fritz came easy.
“We’ve been friends for a long time and when I was little, I always looked up to Sam,” Buch said. “Neither of us is a selfish player. Neither of us cares who scores. The only thing either one of us cares about is winning. Sam is a great all-around athlete.”
Said Fritz, “Nicole and I played a lot of basketball when we were growing up. And we’d both keep playing in the offseason. The reason we had such good chemistry on the floor is we both know what each other likes to do. We both pay attention. It’s easy when you’re so familiar with a teammate.”
Neither has chosen an easy spring, summer and fall.
Fritz is now running track for Fairfield and will eventually enroll at Creighton University to study business.
“I’d like to work for a major corporation,” she said. “Work my way up to being a CFO or CEO and be able to travel, too.”
A basketball devotee, Buch will be hitting the hardwood often, competing for elite club squads from now through autumn.
Second-Team All-State is nice, said Buch.
“But there is definitely room for improvement,” she said. “I want to become an all-around better basketball player.”
Of having two Trojans earn this all-state honor, Fritz said, “It shows that Nicole and I both put in a lot of hard work to get here. It takes determination and willpower. It’s nice to see a smaller school like Fairfield have two players make it: Our school is up there with the bigger schools.”
The honor meant a lot to Flattery, too.
“We have a lot of young girls now that look up to Nicole and Sami,” he said. “It says a lot about our program to have them both honored like this. Both carry themselves so well on the court and also with academics.
“The bottom line is they’re both excellent people. And, in sports, they don’t have a me-me-me attitude—and I’m extremely proud of both of them.”