One of Hersey's strengths is a deep bench, and coach Steve Messer isn't afraid to use any of his guys, even in a pressure-packed atmosphere like the state playoffs.
All 10 Huskies who played scored as Messer rode the hot hands in each half in No. 20 Hersey's 66-59 victory over No. 13 Buffalo Grove in Class 4A regional quarterfinal play at Lake Zurich.
"We had different guys all helping out," Messer said. "That makes everything better when everyone contributes, and that was really the case today. Even a kid like Nick Heeren, who was in for a minute and a half, gets a big bucket. That's huge."
Hersey (8-18), who advances to play in Tuesday's regional semifinal against No. 4 Lake Forest, led from start to finish in avenging two Mid-Suburban East losses to BG (15-12).
And while BG cut what was once a 14-point Hersey lead to as little as 4 on Luke Potnick's 3-point play with 3:47 to go, they could get no closer.
"We never got over the hump and get that run going," said Potnick, who closed out his high school career with 19 points. "We were playing catch up the whole game. And that's what happens, you run out of time."
With Payton Haas and Alex Mueller making all of the right plays against BG's trapping defense and Michael Messer (11 points) and Mike Fuerst (15 points, 15 rebounds) finishing inside, Hersey went into the locker room up 35-27.
"We got a big lead because we had good pressure, got the first rebound and ran pretty good offense all night," Messer said.
The Bison came out of the locker room reenergized as drives from Scott Smithern and Andrew Apel (12 points, 5 steals) quickly made it a 4-point game.
"We got knocked down a little bit but we continued to respond," said BG coach Ryan O'Connor. "There were times when I felt like the game could have gotten away from us, but we crept back in it."
But the 6-foot-5 Fuerst dominated the third quarter, scoring eight straight Hersey points during one stretch for a 50-36 lead with 1:28 left in the third.
And an aggressive Branden Hatten (11 points) and Tyndale Dahnweih helped close out the game in the fourth quarter for a Hersey team that hit 24-of-30 from the free throw line, compared with just 13-of-24 for
"It's hard to make runs when you're poor from the free throw line," O'Connor said. "We missed some shots that we typically make, but I thought our effort was there the whole night."
Quinn Orlandi added 8 rebounds, aiding a 36-30 edge on the boards that an improved Hersey squad will need to maintain against the Scouts' 6-foot-7 Evan Boudreaux and 6-foot-9 Sam Downey.
"All of these games just build confidence," Messer said. "We were able to get to the rim, knock down some free throws and hold the lead."