Hersey defends its court, upsets Palatine
With a strong performance from start to finish, No. 14-seed and host Hersey put itself in a position to pull off a huge upset over No. 4 Palatine in a Class 4A boys basketball regional semifinal contest Wednesday night in Arlington Heights.
The visiting Pirates only led once at 2-0, and trying to play catch-up with the Huskies all night proved to be a daunting task for Palatine.
In the end, Hersey held off a late rally by the Pirates to capture an exciting 53-51 victory to advance to the regional title game Friday night at 7 p.m.
Trailing 13-8 after one quarter, and 25-19 at halftime, Palatine (19-12) used an effective full-court press in the third quarter to quickly force a 25-25 tie as Hersey (8-21) committed 7 turnovers in the period.
The Huskies were able to weather the storm, though as they took a 38-35 lead after three quarters and a 45-37 advantage when Johnny Ryg banked in a 3-pointer with 5:12 to play.
The Pirates also became turnover-plagued with 8 turnovers in the fourth quarter as a steal and basket by Ryg gave Hersey a 53-48 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Palatine's D.J. Dick hit a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left. But the Pirates had to foul with 1.4 seconds to go resulting in a missed Hersey free throw as a last-ditch half court shot by the Pirates was well off the mark as time expired.
"Hersey is better than their record, and we were playing catch-up the whole game," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone, whose team beat Hersey in the season-opener 57-29 on Nov. 23. "It was just kind of a sloppy game, it was kind of uncharacteristic of how we have played, but just one clunker and you're done."
Six-foot-6 Hersey freshman Jackson Hupp had a huge game with 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, including two clutch free throws with 42.4 seconds to play.
Ryg hit double figures with 12 points while teammates Josh Cataldo and Mike Jasper scored 6 points each. Quinn Mullen had 5 points for the Huskies.
"We were the underdog coming in, we showed out, we made great plays, and Mike Jasper hit huge shots," said Hupp. "I feel like as a team we were not connected as much (early in season), our bond has strengthened, we've come a really long way, and I think we can go further."
Palatine was led by junior point guard Sam Millstone with 18 points followed by Grant Dersnah (16 points), Connor May (9), and Dick (8). The Pirates have struggled without injured junior standout Tyler Swierczek in their lineup for the past few weeks.
"It was definitely our best first half, and I think that set the tone for them to believe in each other," said Hersey coach Austin Scott. "We had some great contributions off the bench, the game plan was to attack the zone and limit them to one shot, and things came together."