Hersey all smiles after rolling past Fremd
Hersey sophomore guard Katy Eidle glanced over to double-check the final score before letting out a smile that crept out of her mask.
Senior point guard Mary Kate Fahey, a four-year varsity player, had yet to experience the thrill of beating Fremd in her career.
That ended on Saturday night.
When the final buzzer sounded in Hersey's 57-35 win over Fremd in Saturday's Mid-Suburban League girls basketball crossover game, Fahey clutched the basketball with pride and punctuated the victory by half-punching it.
In a heavyweight battle between the state's top two ranked teams in Class 4A -- No. 1 Hersey versus No. 2 Fremd -- the Huskies earned a nice consolation prize in a truncated season without a state tournament.
"This was the first win over Fremd in high school in any sport for me," Fahey said. "I played volleyball, track and this year we have four seasons and I played tennis. I never beat them in any sport. This felt amazing. It was the best team win we've had. I wanted to whip (the ball) in the air, but we have still have a lot more to accomplish."
Eidle added another chapter to her growing legacy, scoring a game-high 26 points to keep the Huskies (10-0) unbeaten and end their four-game series losing streak to the Vikings (8-1).
"I was feeling it tonight," Eidle said. "I knew my defender was getting tired, so I kept shooting and they started going in. This win feels great. We knew this was the biggest game of our season so far, so it's great for everyone because we wanted it and got it."
Fahey tallied 12 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds and Avery Larson chipped in with 11 points. Fremd sophomore Maddy Fay finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Even Hersey veteran coach Mary Fendley, normally reserved immediately after games, embraced her players in a postgame huddle.
Indeed, this was a night to celebrate for the Huskies.
"I feel it was our time this year," Fendley said. "I feel we have the best sophomore in the state in Katy Eidle. She showed it tonight. I think we were ready. (Fremd) is such a good team. Maybe our senior leadership got us over the brink that we couldn't get over last year."
The Huskies were vying for some revenge after losing to Fremd in last season's Mid-Suburban League title game by one point.
The Huskies won't have an opportunity to win a state championship this March, but they'll take some semblance of a consolation prize by knocking off the defending 4A state champs.
Even so, the battle of undefeated conference heavyweights didn't live up to the hype, mainly because Fremd 6-foot-2 junior forward Brianna Wooldridge was sidelined with a knee injury.
"(Hersey) is long and athletic and been around the block together," Fremd coach Dave Yates said. "They remind me of what we were last year. They've got so many kids that three or four-year varsity basketball players."
The Huskies' full-court pressure defense harassed the Vikings into a number of turnovers and rushed shots. The Vikings were held to seven points in the first quarter and trailed 23-16 at halftime.
Aside from a 2-0 deficit, the Huskies never trailed the rest of the game, building leads of 13-4, 22-14 and 35-22.
Fremd's two returning starters, Grace LaBarge and Ruthie Montella, never could get on track offensively. Even though Hersey senior forward Mary McGrath had an off night with 8 points, the Hersey were able to recover due to strong efforts from unsung seniors, Avery Larson and Natalia Kubsik.
"Avery did a great job and knows her role and is rock solid," Fendley said.