Hersey's defense denies Stevenson regional title
Hersey senior Brianna Luciano talked about the importance of Thursday's 51-36 Class 4A girls basketball regional championship victory.
"It's just so amazing," said Luciano of the win over Stevenson at Ken Carter Gymnasium in Arlington Heights. "Our last home game as seniors, in this gym, it's really special. And to do it with this team is just perfect. I couldn't ask for anything better."
Luciano helped key a strong Hersey defensive effort down the stretch, while Mary Kate Fahey scored a team-high 15 points in the triumph.
Hersey senior Maddie Jacobson was strong on the boards (9 rebounds) and pitched in on the offensive end with 13 points.
"We were just looking to push the ball tonight," said Huskies junior Sydney Hemenway. "We had to keep taking it to them and not let up."
Junior Avery King scored a game-high 19 points for Stevenson and played a superb all-around game.
"Avery has carried us all season long," said Patriots coach Ashley Graham. "She's been on varsity since she's been a freshman and had a great junior season. Just kind of exploded this year -- she's so fearless, and is such a tough matchup and great defender."
Hersey (20-9), which will meet Fremd Monday night in the Libertyville sectional, played an up-tempo first half, building up a 29-15 lead after a layup from Aya El-Fiky late in the second quarter.
Then Stevenson made a third-quarter run and after a King floater in the lane, the Patriots trailed by only 7 with 3 minutes remaining in the period.
"I was proud of our kids for that comeback," said Graham. "We fought hard but the bottom line was we didn't make enough shots on the offensive end."
"Hersey is so just tenacious on defense, and they really hurt us with offensive rebounds."
Leading 33-26 at that point, the Huskies stymied the Patriots rally when El-Fiky made a steal and fed Fahey for a layup -- then a take-away by Hemenway led to another bucket.
At that point the Huskies' defense kicked into high gear. Hersey held Stevenson to a total of 3 points in the next 9 minutes of play and took a 45-31 lead with 1:45 left in the game.
"Communication was the key," said Luciano. "Communicating in our 2-3 zone. We've been working on that all season, and getting deflections really helps us a lot on 'D' as well."
King hit a couple of buckets late for Stevenson and teammate Lydia Lueck sank a long 3, but the Patriots couldn't cut into the Hersey lead as Fahey scored 7 points in the final period.
Freshman Simone Sawyer scored 9 points for the Patriots on 9-for-10 free throw shooting, while sophomore El-Fiky finished with 9 points for Hersey and classmate Mary McGrath added 7.
"We've been really focused in practice all week, and we knew what it would take to win tonight," said Luciano, who will attend Winona State University in the fall to play softball and major in psychology. "We were all really motivated to get the victory."
After the game, Huskies coach Mary Fendley lauded the play of her starting guards, Fahey, McGrath and Emily Collins.
"They are so good at dribbling, passing and scoring," said Fendley of the trio. "They're just a three-headed monster of doing whatever it takes to help their team win."
"They (Stevenson) were able to collapse the lead pretty quickly in the third quarter tonight," added Fendley, "but we were able to come right back. These kids are so team-first, as much as any team I've ever coach. They don't care about stats at all."