Hersey tops Palatine for 9th straight victory
After an exhilarating 68-67 win over top-ranked Benet on Saturday, Hersey's girls basketball team was back on the court Tuesday night against visiting Palatine.
One Huskie, though, not on the court was standout defensive gem Kelsey Neary. The UConn lacrosse recruit was sidelined due to an ankle injury.
However, just as they rose to the occasion against Benet, the Huskies handled Tuesday's adversity and came away with their ninth straight win, a 56-36 Mid-Suburban League crossover decision in their own Ken Carter Gymnasium.
"It definitely was an adjustment not having our top defensive player igniting our offense," said Katy Eidle, who as usual ignited the Huskies' play with her all-around performance that included a game-high 15 points and 4 assists. "But we adjusted well. We picked each other up the best we could without Kelsey. I think we're just going to get better and then we have Kelsey back, we'll play better than we did tonight or in the past."
Less than 20 seconds into the game, another offensive igniter Natalie Alesia came out of the game with an ankle injury. But she returned a few minutes later and finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Also in the first half, Keaton Craft had to leave the game for a stretch with a knee injury.
"I wasn't worried," Eidle said. "They're tough kids."
Craft came back tough and the 5-foot-10 sophomore ended up with 6 rebounds in her first starting assignment.
"When you're playing with different kids your timing is all off," said Hersey coach Mary Fendley. "Kelsey really runs our defense. We were a little flat today and that could be a lot of things. But I would say playing without Kelsey would be the biggest part of that. And, of course, Palatine had something to do with that, too."
Following a driving layup by Lexi Sabado, the Pirates led 3-2 with 4:52 in the first quarter.
Hersey proceeded on a 13-2 run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers by Alesia to make it 11-4 with 1:43 left.
Two free throws by Meghan Mrowicki (8 points, 4 steals, 6-of-6 free throws) made it 13-4 and two free throws by Alesia gave the hosts a 15-4 advantage.
Megan Kim's 3-pointer cut it to 15-7 but that's as close as the Pirates would get.
Eidle's 3 pointer gave Hersey its biggest lead of the half at 34-15.
Mackenzie Ginder added 6 points for Hersey while junior Ava Harwood and freshman Kate Donovan also made it into the scoring column.
"We weren't as dynamic as we usually are but obviously I'm still grateful to get the win," said Fendley, who made it 518 wins against 208 losses in her hall of fame 25-year career. "We had a handful of kids get injured within the game, too. Sometimes you play on adrenaline after an injury. We'll see how these sprains, bumps and bruises are at practice (on Wednesday) and hopefully we have at least a few kids back on Friday."
Fendley expects Neary out at least a week.
"It really changes our defense with her out." added Fendley who also received 8 points from junior Annika Manthy (4-of-4 free throws).
Leading the Pirates were Megan Van Brunt (10 points), Kim (9) and 6-2 sophomore Molly Pieper (7). Junior Frankie Henderson added 4 while getting credit for some stellar defense from coach Bill LePage.
"Frankie played a great game," he said, "Megan Van Brunt did a great job and Molly Pieper works hard. She's a good player. All the kids are doing everything we're asking of them. That's (Hersey) a good team and I think they're going to win a lot of games but I think we are, too.
"Our girls always come out with energy and execute what we want. But we turned the ball over too much and you cannot give a good team like Hersey the opportunities that we did, especially in the first half."