Hersey rolls by Wheeling
On a night when former Daily Herald sports writer Marty Maciaszek was honored by the IHSA for his distinguished service, Hersey's boys basketball team distinguished itself with a stellar defensive performance in a 55-36 Mid-Suburban East win at Wheeling.
Hersey limited Wheeling to 12-of-34 shooting from the floor, outrebounded the Wildcats 23-9 and forced 11 crucial first-half turnovers in building a lead that was threatened briefly but never overcome.
In practice this week, "We really emphasized the importance of defense," stressed Hersey coach Austin Scott after Tuesday's one-sided loss to Hoffman Estates. "We have to rely on our defense. The guys believe in it. They executed it just the way we practiced it," he noted, crediting defensive coach Mike White.
Whatever Hersey (4-3, 1-1) practiced, it showed. Center Jacob Kluczewski blocked 5 shots, all in the first half, as Wheeling had more 3-pointers in the first two periods than 2-point baskets.
While he was anchoring the defense and controlling the boards, point guard Matt Hanushewsky was running the show, penetrating his way to 7 points and controlling the tempo as Hersey turned Wheeling's 11 first-half turnovers into fastbreak points, especially for Davis Belford, on his signature twisting reverse laying, or high scorer Rocco Ronzio, open on the wings of Wheeling's zone for a trio of 3-pointers.
"He's our leader," Scott said of Hanushewsky. "We hold him to very high expectations."
Hanushewsky downplayed that a little though.
"I just want to help our team win. We're a group of 4-5 seniors who play together," although he said he does hold himself to a high standard of play, and it shows.
Wheeling crept back within 39-33 on sophomore forward Joe Jordan's 3-point play and Brandon Zettek's 3-pointer in the final quarter. But Ronzio took over, scoring on a drive and a pullup jumper before Jace Coffaro, off the bench, added a bucket and a couple of free throws. Hanushewsky's driving 3-point play put it out of reach.
"We just did not knock down shots," said Wheeling (3-4, 0-2) head coach Mike O'Keeffe. "Turnovers killed us, definitely. It's one of our points of emphasis."
As is winning the rebound battle every night, another area in which the Wildcats need to improve.
As for Hersey, the Huskies know their key.
"Just defend," said Hanushewsky. "Talk on defense and defend."