Despite 59-33 and 46-27 wins over Wheeling in Mid-Suburban East play this season, Hersey girls basketball coach Mary Fendley hardly expected a third meeting with the Wildcats to be a breeze.
Sure enough, the Huskies found themselves in a 34-34 tie in the third quarter of Friday's Class 4A Waukegan regional championship.
But with junior Juliette Vainisi hitting some big baskets in the period and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, the Huskies were able to pull out a 58-51 triumph and advance to Tuesday's Barrington sectional.
The No. 4-seeded Huskies (25-4) will face No. 1 Rolling Meadows (25-4) at 6 p.m.
It was the Huskies' 14th regional title in school history and ninth under Fendley in her 16 seasons.
Senior Morgan Harris (15 points), freshman Claire Gritt (13) and sophomore Maddie Berigan (11) all reached double figures for the Huskies.
Junior guard Deanna Kuzmanic led Wheeling with a game-high 29 points, including three 3-pointers in the second half.
Junior Hannah Dobrowski (two 3-pointers) added 10 points for the No. 12-seeded Wildcats.
"Juliette Vainisi did a nice job defending Kuzmanic for a while," Fendley said. "And Gina Miklasz and Alysia Zaucha came in and gave us good minutes when we had some starters in foul trouble."
Annie Korff, Gritt and Berigan each had 6 rebounds while Harris (two 3-pointers) and Gritt had 5 assists apiece. Kelly Weyhrich and Vainisi (one 3-pointer) each chipped in 7 points.
Berigan also had 6 blocked shots.
"Maggie's defense was terrific," Fendley said. "Lani Greenberg is a really nice player and Maggie did a nice job defending her.
"This wasn't an easy game for us. It was tough and physical right from the beginning. I was very concerned because I knew this was different team than the first two we played. We saw them play Stevenson on Wednesday (semifinals) and that's the team we expected to see earlier in the season but it didn't work out that way because of injuries."
Now, the Huskies prepare for the 2013 Class AA state runner-up Meadows, which defeated Hersey 58-45 and 73-47 in MSL East play.
"We have another shot at them," Fendley said. " We'll do the best we can."