Hersey knocks off No. 1 Fremd behind Eidle's 27
Just a little more than two weeks ago, Hersey lost by 19 points in the Mid-Suburban League championship to Fremd, the No. 1 ranked girls basketball team in Class 4A.
Hersey, which was the No. 1 team back in December, turned the tables on the Vikings on Thursday night at Highland Park sectional championship.
The No. 3-seeded Huskies (27-8), led by Michigan-bound Katy Eidle's 27 points, pulled away in the final quarter for a 61-52 triumph over top-seeded Fremd to advance to the Fremd supersectional on Monday night at 7 p.m. against New Trier sectional champ Maine South (26-7).
"We beat the odds," said senior Natalie Alesia (8 points), who made 4 big free throws in the final quarter. "We were complete underdogs and I couldn't be happier."
In all, eight Huskies scored including Meghan Mrowicki (12 points), Kelsey Neary (4), Annika Manthy (3), Sabrina DiVito (3), Kiki Craft (2) and Mackenzie Ginder (2).
"I'm telling you it was a team effort," Alesia added. "We are just meshing. I tried to tell people that just because we were struggling in the middle of the season, that was not going to define us. I said 'just wait until it matters when we are healthy and strong', and look what happens."
What happened was a big fourth quarter in the Huskies' biggest game of the season.
Nursing a 39-38 lead after three quarters, Hersey used an 11-2 run to start the fourth period and never looked back.
Eidle had 7 of the points and Mrowicki 4.
"I've said for years that I think Katy Eidle is the best basketball player to walk the halls of Hersey, boys or girls, and I am standing by that. Meghan Mrowicki (Notre Dame soccer recruit) is the best athlete to ever go through Hersey," sad Huskies hall of fame coach Mary Fendley, who is retiring after the season and now has 536 wins in 25 seasons.
"To have two elite athletes on the same court, and all of our seniors, is special. My six seniors are competing collegiately five different sports. That tells you how uber-talented they are."
Eidle said the Huskies just worked on the things they did wrong in their first meeting with Fremd.
"And we just weren't hitting shots that first time," she said. "Fremd's girls basketball team is going back home. None of us wanted to go home. We stuck to the game plan and here we are. It's a dream come true and we aren't done yet."
Craft's bucket and Alesia's leaping layup off an assist from Mrowicki gave Hersey its biggest lead of the first half (15-8). A layup by Coco Urlacher with two seconds left got Fremd to within 15-10 after one quarter.
Maddy Fay's layup gave Fremd its biggest lead of the first half at 24-17 but Hersey charged back and trailed only 29-28 at intermission, thanks to 3-pointers from DiVito and Eidle in the final minute.
Except for Fremd's 35-32 lead, the two teams were separated by 1 point the entire third quarter which ended with Hersey in front 39-38 thanks to a 6-footer by Mrowicki with 30 seconds left.
"I thought we battled for three quarters," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "But they just made more plays than us on both sides of the ball. They had an answer for every run we had."
Fay led Fremd with 16 points followed by Ella Todd (9), Coco Urlacher (8), Brynn Eshoo (7) and Kace Urlacher (5).
Fremd (32-3) was looking for its fifth sectional title in 17 seasons under Yates, whose team set a single-season program record for wins.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Yates said. "We had an amazing season. Our seniors (Sam Bodensteiner, Shreya Mantena, Emily Allen, Caroline Montella, Rachel Martin, Nikki Gonnella, Leah Saxe, Fay and Kace Urlacher) are an amazing group and will be missed tremendously. Once the dust settles, we will realize what a great season we had."
Hersey's great season will continue on Monday with the most athletic team Fendley has coached.
"I gut checked them a few times and they were still giving everything they had," she said. "I'm so proud of the kids who accepted their roles that maybe if they were on other teams they'd be scoring 20 points a game. But on our team, they accepted a role that was best for us and we just feel like we've had the pieces and we've been lucky enough the past two games to be at full strength. I guess it happened at the right time."