Hersey hits late, passes up Grayslake Central

  • Hersey's Will Nagle, top, fouls Grayslake Central's Clay Stoffel as they go to the floor for a loose ball during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Hersey's Will Nagle, top, fouls Grayslake Central's Clay Stoffel as they go to the floor for a loose ball during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Grayslake Central's Alec Novak splits Hersey defenders Jason Schmidt, left, and Rocco Ronzio during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Grayslake Central's Alec Novak splits Hersey defenders Jason Schmidt, left, and Rocco Ronzio during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Hersey's Johnny O'Shea, middle, drives to the basket against Grayslake Central's Jack Spalding (13) during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Hersey's Johnny O'Shea, middle, drives to the basket against Grayslake Central's Jack Spalding (13) during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Grayslake Central's Alec Novak, left, tries to keep the ball inbounds as Hersey's Andrew Leno closes in during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Grayslake Central's Alec Novak, left, tries to keep the ball inbounds as Hersey's Andrew Leno closes in during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Grayslake Central's Jack Spalding, middle, makes a strong move to the basket against the Hersey defense including Jacob Kluczewski, right, during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Grayslake Central's Jack Spalding, middle, makes a strong move to the basket against the Hersey defense including Jacob Kluczewski, right, during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Hersey's Jacob Kluczewski, left, meets Grayslake Central's Jack Fortmann, middle, and Jack Spalding under the basket during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights.

      Hersey's Jacob Kluczewski, left, meets Grayslake Central's Jack Fortmann, middle, and Jack Spalding under the basket during Wednesday's game in Arlington Heights. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/14/2018 10:41 PM

Hersey boys basketball coach Steve Messer was keeping the faith despite his team's early struggles.

The Huskies scored only 1 point in the first eight minutes during a nonconference match against visiting Grayslake Central. Hersey missed its first 16 field goal tries.

 

"I think that we started to execute better," Messer said. "We rose to the challenge."

Hersey rallied for a 45-44 triumph on Wednesday night in the Carter Gymnasium.

The Huskies (9-15) overcame a 14-1 first-quarter deficit and 14-point deficits in the second and third quarters.

They were still down by 12 points with 6:14 left before denying Grayslake Central a field goal in its final 9 attempts, which included a pair of 3-point attempts in the game's closing seconds.

"Coach told us to keep our heads up (after the first quarter)," said Hersey guard Rocco Ronzio.

The 6-foot-2 junior engineered the turnaround by scoring 8 of his team-high 14 points in the second quarter.

It started with the team's first field goal from beyond the arc with 6:43 left in the first half.

After Rams leading scorer Jack Spalding (15 points) hit a 3-pointer, Ronzio countered with a layup that closed the margin to 23-13 with 31 seconds left in the half.

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Fellow junior Matt Hanushewsky (11 points) pulled Hersey to within 23-16 just three seconds left in the half.

His 3-point play allowed the Huskies to outscore the visitors 15-9 in the second quarter.

The 5-9 guard began the Huskies' second-half scoring by tallying their first 5 points to close the gap to 25-21 with 5:03 left in the third quarter.

Soon enough, Hersey was facing another 14-point deficit after a Spalding 3-pointer capped a 10-0 tear with 3:12 left in the period.

Ronzio and his teammates recalled what had worked in their previous comeback.

"We knew what got us going," Ronzio said. "It was getting back to good communication on the floor and setting good ball screens on offense. That allowed us to start hitting our shots from outside, which got us moving forward."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A basket on a drive by Alec Novak (14 points) gave Central a 43-31 lead. But that was the Rams' last bucket of the game.

Hersey's comeback began with Ryan Verhulst's layup, which laid the foundation for Hersey's final 4 field goals, all of which came from 3-point range.

Hanushewsky's second 3 closed the gap to 43-36. After Verhulst's second 3 made it 43-39 at the 3:24 mark, Hanushewsky played a huge role by making back-to-back critical assists. The first was on Verhulst's 3 that got Hersey to within 43-42 with 2:40 remaining, and the second was on Ronzio's game-winner with half a minute left, which came on the heels of a Novak free throw.

The Huskies were 9-of-21 from 3-point range.

"Hans (Hanushewsky) made a great pass," Ronzio said of his game-winning shot. "It's a shot that I practice regularly and that I feel confident to take."

The Rams, also 9-15, had two opportunities to win but came up short on 3-point attempts, the second falling short with one second left.

Verhulst added 13 points for Hersey which finishes its home schedule with a Mid-Suburban East finale against Rolling Meadows on Friday.

"The thing for us is that we still haven't played a complete four-quarter game all season," Messer said. "We've had games where we've played well -- but not for a full 32 minutes. It's a reason that I do believe in this team, and I'm looking forward to what they still are capable of doing."

Grayslake Central, which got 10 points from junior guard Antonio Crews, returns to Northern Lake County Conference action Saturday Night as they host archrival Grayslake North.

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