Fremd handles Hersey, big crowd to win 20th MSL crown
The 50th edition of the Mid-Suburban League girls basketball championship was held on Wednesday night in Arlington Heights and Fremd retained its golden touch in the showcase event.
The Vikings, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, left Hersey's Carter Gymnasium with a 58-39 triumph, giving them an eye-popping 20 MSL crowns in 50 years.
Between current coach Dave Yates and Carol Plodzien, the only other coach in program history, the Vikings are 20-4 overall in the game. Plodzien won all 12 games she was in, beginning in 1974.
"That's pretty amazing," said Yates about the 20-4 mark in title games. "And obviously I'm not going to take credit for all of them. Carol has a big piece in all of these."
The Vikings improved to 28-2 overall in front of a nearly full house while Hersey now stands at 23-8.
"We haven't really played in front of many big crowds this season so we were nervous coming into the game about how we would treated," said Fremd senior and Northern Illinois recruit Maddy Fay. "But we did a really nice job of adjusting to the big crowd which is similar to how regionals and sectionals will be."
Two free throws by Fay and a 3-pointer by sophomore Ella Todd staked the Vikes to a 10-5 lead late in the first quarter. They extended it to 22-14 at intermission, scoring the final 5 points when senior Kace Urlacher made a beautiful outlet pass to her sophomore sister Coco who hit the 16-footer with 1:36 left followed by junior Brynn Eshoo's 3-pointer with 39 seconds left.
A 3-pointer by Todd with nine seconds left gave Fremd a 42-29 lead after three quarters and the Huskies never got close as Eshoo converted 6 of 6 free throw in final five minutes,
Balanced scoring was again the key for Fremd led by Eshoo (16 points), Todd (15), Fay (12) and Kace Urlacher (10).
"This team has a lot of kids who can contribute and they've been doing it all season," Yates said. "It's not like it's a surprise. I thought Brynn played a great game, too. We are never reliant on one kid to carry us. That's exciting because it's not like if 'kid x' is having a bad game, we are in trouble. We have a lot of kids who can pick us up."
Megan Mrowicki led Hersey with 15 points followed by Katy Eidle (11), Nataklie Alesia (7) and Annika Manthy (6).
"We really struggled to score but that's not all us," said Hersey coach Mary Fendley, who at halftime was recognized along with her assistant Julia Barthel and Palatine coach Bill LePage for their ensuing retirements from coaching. "That's their really, really tough defense and they can score from anywhere on the court. Their shooters really kind of stretched out the lead to double figures and we could never recover,"
Fremd has been in the title game for 17 of the past 25 years but did not play in the game last year.
Their last title was in 2020, the year they were Class 4A state champs.
"We weren't in it last year and that's something we challenged our kids with for this season," Yates said. "They were super excited all season to get back. Sometimes maybe you need to miss it a year to realize how special it is.
"Hersey's a great team and I just told our kids I love being in this game because it's basically a free sectional environment with a big crowd and it doesn't end your season because of the result. I was pleased with how we played and how we controlled the game for the most part."
Fendley credited Fremd.
"They obviously have played like this since day one of the season," she said. "I wished we could have matched up better and I don't fault our effort at all. They're just a very good team.
"They're so skilled in every position. You can defend four out of five kids really well. Some possessions we did that but the one kid you relax on for a second, But they're so talented and organized that they take advantage if you take a mental lapse just for a second on one of their kids."