Hersey grabs MSL East lead at Elk Grove

While they were not exactly unlikely heroes, sophomore Joe Coffaro, junior Zak Cooper and senior Joe Mailloux came up with big efforts Saturday night. All three figured prominently in Hersey's 57-54 win at Elk Grove in the Mid-Suburban League East showdown.

The win gives the 11-6 and 5-1 Huskies sole possession of first place. Elk Grove is 11-5 and 4-2.

“We had a lot of players come up with big efforts in this win,” said Hersey coach Steve Messer. “Our bench deserves a lot of credit. They ate up some valuable minutes to give some of the starters some rest.”

Cooper, who finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds, hit 2 free throws for the Huskies to break a 54-54 tie with :22 left.

Payton Haas (8 points, 6 rebounds) scored the final point on a free throw with :13 left.

Elk Grove had two chances to tie the game in the waning moments.

Tyler Ingebrigtsen (17 points, 7 rebounds) tried for a game-tying 3 with :03 left but stiff defense from Haas saw the shot deflect off the rim. Dan Hadler secured the rebound for the Grenadiers, who called time out with 1.8 seconds left.

Hadler's last-second shot hit the front of the rim as time expired.

“We didn't win the game as much with offense as we did defense down the stretch,” said Messer. “I thought Haas' defense on Ingebrigtsen forced a tougher shot.”

Coffaro (18 points) kept finding the range for the Huskies and came up with timely baskets during the game. Mailloux had one of his better offensive games with 12 points, including a key putback with 2:15 left in the game for a 53-48 lead.

Hersey led 14-9 after one quarter. Coffaro hit for three 3s for 11 second-quarter points as the Huskies led 34-25 at the break.

“Haas and (Max) Heeren draw so much attention,” said Coffaro, “that when the try to get the ball inside, the big men might have to kick it out. I need to be in position to shoot. That's what kind of happened.”

Coffaro hit 7 of 13 shots from the field.

“We were lucky to be down 9 points at halftime,” said Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman. “It was a rough first half for us. We were on our heels a lot. We played a little tight going into the game, knowing the magnitude of it.”

The Huskies opened up their largest lead at 45-31 with 5:38 left in the third quarter on a Mailloux basket when the scoring drought hit.

Hersey went scoreless the rest of the quarter while the Grens finished with a 9-0 burst, with Ingebrigtsen scoring Elk Grove's last 5 points of the frame.

Hadler's 3 with 1:20 left knotted the score at 54 to complete the comeback and tie the contest..

“We made a great effort in coming back to tie the game,” said Furman. “Hersey made the plays they needed to down the stretch.”

“We closed this game out well as a team,” said Mailloux. “When they tied the game up I just knew we wouldn't quit. We had to play within our roles. I think a lot of players showed good leadership.”

Elk Grove's Joey Gatziolis came up with a big effort to keep Elk Grove in striking distance. He finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds. He scored 11 in the second half.

“Coffaro hurt us,” said Gatziolis. “In the last game (a 64-50 Hersey win in December), he didn't score. We didn't let the 14-point deficit effect us. We got ourselves back in the game but we just weren't able to pull it out.”

Images: Hersey vs. Elk Grove, boys basketball

  Elk Grove guard Joey Gatziolis pulls in a defensive rebound against Hersey forward Zack Cooper on Saturday at Elk Grove. George LeClaire/
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