Hersey controlled the tempo through most of the first two quarters at Wheeling on Friday night yet couldn't quite shake the stubborn, short-handed Wildcats.
Then came the final 60 seconds of the half -- and the Annie Korff show.
First the Huskies junior went coast-to-coast after a steal to knock down a layup. Then she stole the ball at the other end and led a break, finishing it with a dish to Renee Poulos for an easy basket.
Korff closed out the dynamic sequence with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and just like that Hersey led by 16 points at halftime en route to a 46-27 Mid-Suburban East win.
Korff led the Huskies (19-2, 4-2) with a game-high 12 points while junior guard Hailey Dammeier scored 11 for Wheeling (9-12, 2-4).
The Wildcats were without Division I recruit Deanna Kuzmanic, who was out due to illness.
"It's funny," said Hersey coach Mary Fendley, "but the last time we went up against them, they were also without one of their best players (6-2 center Lani Greenberg)."
"Now tonight they played without Deanna, and it had to be tough for them to make adjustments. They're a different team at full strength."
Freshman guard Kelly Weyhrich gave Hersey an offensive shot in the arm in the first half, coming off the bench to score all 10 of her points, including swishing two 3's.
But instead of offense, Weyhrich wanted to talk about "D."
"I just try to go out there and play good defense," said Weyhrich of her role. "I try to help out my team as much as I can. I'm a streaky shooter, but I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates tonight, especially Maggie (Berigan). They were setting some great screens."
Hersey freshman Claire Gritt opened the second half with one of her three 3-pointers to extend the lead.
But Dammeier, who Wheeling coach Julissa Hernandez said "played great," kept the Wildcats in the game by scoring 7 points in the third quarter and grabbing 3 of her game-high 7 rebounds in the period.
But the Huskies defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, and nothing epitomized the effort more than the beginning of the period, when Wheeling held the ball for almost two minutes before getting off a shot.
Hersey kept the Wildcats to just one basket, a bucket by senior Caitlyn Slussar, in the final eight minutes.
"We always say our offense comes from playing good 'D,' " said Korff. "Defense is our strong suit, and it leads to steals, defensive rebounds and transition offense."
"We knew we couldn't relax tonight because Wheeling is a really good team. They like to compete."
Gritt finished with 10 points for Hersey, who finished 7-of-14 from 3-point range, while teammates Morgan Harris (5 points) and Poulos (4 points) made clutch contributions.
Greenberg played a strong game for Wheeling with 6 points and 6 boards.
"We like to get the ball inside to Lani," Hernandez said. "They have to defend that, and it opens up her teammates."
Forward Elizabeth Smith added 6 points for the Wildcats, who despite missing Kuzmanic gave a determined effort.
"We approached this game like we approach any other game," said Hernandez, "to go out there and fight on offense and defense. The girls have committed to that -- it's been our theme all season, and they want to do it every minute of every game."