Hersey junior Morgan Harris gave senior teammate Casey Weyhrich a reminder about today's updated schedule as they walked off the court at Mundelein after Tuesday night's Class 4A girls basketball regional semifinal with Warren.
“We get to practice tomorrow,” Harris said excitedly.
That's get to, not have to, practice. And the Huskies are ecstatic they get to, and not have to, face one of the state's best teams in Mid-Suburban East rival Rolling Meadows for the regional title at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
After all, there was little for eighth-seeded Hersey (16-11) not to be happy with after an impressive second half that turned a game still in doubt into a 60-37 rout over No. 9 Warren (15-13).
“We've really come together as a team, so it's exciting,” Harris said after hitting all 12 of her free throws en route to a career-high 27 points.
“As the season has progressed, we're definitely playing more as a unit and we've really started to gell,” Weyhrich said after she had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. “We had good chemistry but we needed to put it together.”
Watching the way the Huskies have bonded in the last few weeks — which was typified in the way it broke open a 27-20 halftime lead — has been a source of pride and joy for coach Mary Fendley.
“They've been playing great lately and this is a team that I feel like started from scratch,” Fendley said. “These girls have worked so hard. It's a testament to how hard these girls have worked.”
Harris broke the school's single-game free-throw shooting record of 11-for-11 by Linda Walkowiak (1980) and Nicollete McCartny (1999) after going 9-for-9 in the regular-season finale against Barrington. Hersey finished 22-for-23 on free throws.
The Huskies also won the rebound battle 31-20 with seven by Erica Hill and four apiece from Meg Cerniglia and Sara Bayerle. Their full-court pressure led to 19 turnovers while they committed just seven.
“Our defense has been a big key for us,” Weyhrich said after Warren shot just 33 percent from the field (10-for-30).
Hersey shot only 36.7 percent (18-for-49) but its extra effort was epitomized in a sequence where it had 5 offensive rebounds before Hill scored in a 10-2 tear that increased the lead to 42-24.
“That was awesome,” Harris said after scoring 13 third-quarter points to surpass her previous high of 20 points.
“There was a time in the third quarter where the physical level of play changed,” said Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz. “Hersey became more physical on the offensive glass and we never responded to that. It looked like we lost a little bit of confidence out there and we couldn't respond.”
Senior Alyssa Phillips scored 9 of her 11 points in the first half and had 7 rebounds and junior Cassie Christie added 8 points for Warren.
“It's a disappointing ending,” Stanczykiewicz said. “But overall we'll step back and realize we had a heck of a year, after graduating all the players we did, to finish with a winning record.”
Now Hersey looks to keep its late-season roll going against top-seeded Meadows (25-3), which beat No. 18 Lake Forest 81-25 in the first semifinal.
“It's really culminated nicely and we'll give it everything we have in a third shot at Rolling Meadows,” Fendley said of trying to avenge a pair of MSL East losses.
“Anything can happen,” Weyhrich said. “We need to bring out our highest intensity.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.