First it was a freshman.
This time a sophomore.
The underclassmen on Fremd’s girls basketball team sure know how to finish with a flair.
Less than two weeks after Vikings freshman Brianna Lewis fired up a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime to win the Mid-Suburban League championship, sophomore Haley Gorecki took her turn in the spotlight with some late-game magic.
Instead of a 3-pointer to win it, Gorecki used a 3-point play to lift No. 2-seeded Fremd to a thrilling 55-54 come-from-behind victory over No. 3 Zion-Benton in the semifinals of the Class 4A Libertyville sectional on Monday night.
The Vikings (26-7), who trailed 39-30 late in the third quarter, advance to Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. title game against top-seeded Rolling Meadows (27-3).
Fremd edged the Mustangs 66-63 in overtime on Feb. 6 at Rolling Meadows for the MSL crown.
Senior Ashley McConnell (23 points, 3 assists) and Gorecki (22 points, 5 steals) led Fremd while junior Samantha Rodriquez (20 points) and senior Syerra Cunningham (17) paced Zion (19-10).
“There’s an NCAA term ‘survive and advance’,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates. “And we survived. It wasn’t our best game but we are still alive another day.”
Trailing 54-52 with 15.8 seconds left in the game, Fremd stayed alive when it grabbed the rebound of a missed free throw.
The Vikes hustled the ball past half court before Yates called for a timeout with 7.3 seconds left.
The final play was designed for Gorecki to either drive to the basket or kick the ball out to the perimeter.
“I had the lane so I just took it and drove,” said Gorecki, a highly-recruited Division I prospect who sped to the basket and tossed in the short bank shot while getting fouled.
After Gorecki sank the free throw, Zion took the ball out of bounds and missed a 75-footer, giving Fremd a berth in the Sweet 16.
“I don’t know what to say, it was amazing,” Gorecki said. “The team stuck together, even when they had the 5-point lead on us with under a minute.”
McConnell’s 3-pointer got Fremd to within 52-49 with 47 seconds left.
Both teams missed scoring chances in the final 40 seconds before Yates called the timeout for the final play.
“I was almost upset I called a timeout because Ashley might have had a layup,” Yates said. “In the huddle, we said we wanted to try and get the ball into Haley’s hands and get her going to the basket. Fortunately, they helped us by fouling her and we got to shoot the free throw, too.”
Zion coach Tanya Johnson, whose team also lost to Fremd at the Montini tournament 62-47 in late December, credited the Vikings.
“They made the most of their opportunities,” said the Hall of Fame coach, who won back-to-back Class AA state crowns at Loyola. “Kaitlyn Stabenow (senior guard) was a real trooper for us, She has been battling a foot injury and probably shouldn’t have played. If Syerra (17 points) doesn’t score like she did (17 points), it wouldn’t even have been a ballgame.
“I’m just glad the kids came out and made it a game. We had two freshmen (Krystal Walker and TT Maggett) on the floor a lot of the time.”
Seniors Bernie Williams and Marilyn Lortz (each added 5 points for Fremd, which led 8-2 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Gorecki.
Lortz had a big 8-foot bank shot which was followed by McConnell’s 3-pointer to tie the game at 43-43.
“We had to answer all their runs,” said Williams, who also had 2 assists. “We had to stay together as a team.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.