Hersey defends home court, tops Prospect for regional crown
For the first time in the action-packed three-game series between the Hersey and Prospect girls basketball teams this season, the home prevailed.
No. 3-seeded Hersey, playing on its own floor for the Class 4A regional on Thursday night, used a big surge at the end of the first half to take command and never looked back in a 78-55 triumph over the No. 6-seeded Knights at the Carter Gymnasium in Arlington Heights.
The No. 3 seeded Huskies (25-8) will face the winner of Friday's regional title at Rolling Meadows between No. 2 Libertyville and No. 7 Rolling Meadows at Tuesday's Highland Park sectional semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
With the score tied at 25-25, Hersey closed out the first half on a 14-1 run, beginning with a 3-point point play and a 3-point basket from Michigan-bound Katy Eidle (game-high 24 points).
By the time Eidle scored the final basket on a fastbreak layup with three seconds left, Hersey led 39-26 at the break.
A 3-pointer and a jump shot by Gina Falls got Prospect to within 47-38 with 3:31 left in the third quarter but baskets by Mackenzie Ginder, Annika Manthy (13 points) and Eidle's fastbreak layup with two seconds left gave Hersey a 56-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Knights never got closer. Natalie Alesia's 3-pointer made it 63-43 with 6:32 left in the game.
Senior Meghan Mrowicki added 10 points for Hersey.
The Huskies' 78 points were easily the most scored by either team in the three games.
"We hit shots this time, that's for sure," Eidle said. "We were able to move the ball more this time. Overall, we just played a better game and executed."
Alesia, who had a big run of 12 straight points when Hersey beat Prospect in the first matchup, had two big layups during the Knights' big run at the end of the first half.
"When it mattered, we really wanted it," the senior said. "We were able to play our game and didn't let the rivalry take us out of the game. Prospect is a great team and I'm proud of them. I'm also proud of us."
It was Hersey's 20th regional in program history and 14th for coach Mary Fendley, whose career record now stands at 534-215 in 30 seasons,
Prospect (23-10) was led by freshman Alli Linke's 22 points followed by Molly Gilhooly (12) and Nicole Atteo (6).
The Knights, who were co-champs with Hersey in the Mid-Suburban East, were coming off a 56-52 win nearly two weeks ago.
"Our hearts were just in it more this time," said Hersey senior guard Kelsey Neary, who had some key assists with her 4 points. "Especially after losing to them on our Senior Night. We needed to make a statement that that was a fluke and that nothing is going to stop us in the state tournament. It's all about who wants it more."