Hersey tops Barrington in battle of coaching legends
When it comes to Mid-Suburban League girls basketball, it simply doesn't get any better than Friday's coaching matchup at the Buffalo Grove Bison Classic.
You not only had the league's two hall of fame coaches and deans of the MSL East and West meeting each other but also a pair of coaches who faced each other while playing in middle school and as MSL athletes back in the 1980s.
Hersey's Mary Fendley competed at Holmes Middle School in Mt. Prospect and Rolling Meadows High School while Barrington's Babbi Barreiro was at Grove Middle School in Elk Grove and Elk Grove High. The 1985 high school grads were multisport athletes.
On Friday, the two legends who have a combined 1,004 wins in 55 combined seasons, were leading two of the top teams in the state in the penultimate day of action at the Bison Classic.
When it was over, Hersey held off a few big runs by Barrington (from 13-4 and 49-35 deficits) to post a 69-63 triumph over the 2022 Class 4A state runner-up.
"This is the first time we really meshed," said Hersey senior Natalie Alesia. "The pieces are finally coming together. It has everything to do with everyone. Our team is so dimensional. You can put anyone out there and they're doing their part,"
Alesia did her part by tying her career-high of 21 points (three 3-pointers) to complement Katy Eidle's game-high 29 with five 3-pointers.
Senior guard Kelsey Neary handed out 7 assists with 5 rebounds.
"Kelsey's relentless defense is such a difference maker for us," said Fendley, a winner of 513 games in 25 seasons. "She has the ability to wear people down and she is doing that consistently against some of the top players in Illinois. The spark that she gives us by running the show on defense is just so valuable."
Annika Manthy had 5 rebounds and Mackenzie Ginder 4 for the Huskies who were 14 of 14 at the free-throw line.
Barrington (2-2) tried to make one final comeback in the final minute but two clutch free throws by Alesia made it 67-61 with 30.2 seconds left.
Huskies senior Meghan Mrowicki, a Notre Dame soccer recruit, then pulled down a big rebound and ended up scoring a layup at the other end for a 69-61 lead with eight seconds left.
"Everyone has a different role and I think everyone is starting to understand them and that's why we are successful," Alesia added. "Meg is coming back (from knee surgery). She is going to be a strong player and I think she did great today."
A 3-pointer from Eidle, a turnaround bank shot by Alesia off an assist from Neary and another 3-pointer from Eidle put Hersey in front 13-4 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
But the Fillies raced back with a 12-2 run and led 16-15 when junior Molly O'Riordan (17 points, 6 rebounds) converted a 3-pointer for the first points of the second quarter.
Neither team led by more than 2 points until Neary tossed home a 3-pointer with 1:10 left in the half for a 29-26 lead.
The half ended with Hersey (4-1) creating a turnover near midcourt, and the Huskies got the ball to Eidle for a breakaway layup with three seconds left that made it 31-26 at the break.
"The offense was patient enough to wait for things to open up, especially in the second half," Fendley said. "I thought in the first half we did a great job in our half court defense but didn't finish by getting the rebound. But I think that improved a lot in the second half."
Two free throws by Eidle completed a 10-0 run to give Hersey a 33-26 lead early in the third quarter.
But Barrington came back with its own 7-0 run to tie it, getting a 6-footer from O'Riordan, a layup by Adler off a nifty assist from O'Riordan and a 3-pointer from senior Sophie Swanson (20 points, four 3-pointers).
Hersey, however, took its biggest lead at 49-35 on a 3-pointer by Alesia with 2:33 left in the third.
Barrington once again clawed its way back and with 4:46 left, the Fillies were within 57-56 after a 10-footer by O'Riordan.
"I've said for a few years now I love coaching this group because they don't take any plays off," said Barreiro, who has won 491 games. "The tenacity they continue to show is fantastic."
Recent Seton Hall volleyball commit Gwen Adler continued to show her prowess on the basketball floor. The junior scored 17 points with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
"I thought Gwen probably played one of her best games," Barreiro said. "She's just a player who leaves it all out on the court every time, offensively and defensively."
"Hersey is a good team and they're going to have a great season," Barreiro added. "But I think we are going to have a great season, too. We still have a couple of pieces we are still kind of finding our way on. We were down by 14 points and we came roaring back. To get it down to 1 point, shows a lot of guts and determination. It's early in the season and as we keep telling the kids, we'll just analyze and have to get better after games like this and we will."