Mrowicki sparks Hersey to Bison Classic title

Meghan Mrowicki, returning from knee surgery, did not play in Hersey's 1-point opening season loss at defending Class 3A state champion Carmel nearly two weeks ago.

But the senior has enjoyed a reserve role in the Huskies' next five games, and guess what?

Hersey's girls basketball team has not lost.

And not lost on coach Mary Fendley's postgame comments was Mrowicki's importance. Her 13 points, 4 assists and 4 steals helped the Huskies to their fifth straight win which earned them the championship of the Buffalo Grove Bison Classic on Saturday afternoon.

Despite missing its first 17 shots from the floor (0-for-16 in the first quarter) and getting its first basket on Kelsey Neary's 3-pointer with 7:30 left in the second quarter, the Huskies came back from a 12-3 first-quarter hole to top Maine South 60-49 for the title.

"It was hard because we didn't start out on the right foot at Carmel," said Mrowicki, a Notre Dame soccer recruit. "It was hard to lose that Carmel game, and it was a hard game to watch, especially being on the sidelines. But we've come back with five wins. It feels really good to win and I'm excited for the season."

Fendley was excited to see Mrowicki back at her best, as the senior helped spark the second quarter comeback. After the 3-pointer by Neary (5 points, 4 assists), Mrowicki followed with a fastbreak layup that got Hersey to within 12-9.

"Meghan was great, just being able to get to the basket and finish, and hit her free throws (3-for-4)," Fendley said. "Her athleticism kept balls alive in the paint. She was great."

Maine South (3-2) built the lead back to 16-11 on a fastbreak layup by Meegan Fahy before Hersey began its big surge with an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Katy Eidle (game-high 17 points, three 3-pointers, 4 assists) that made it 19-16 with 57 seconds left in the half.

A driving layup by Mrowicki sent Hersey into intermission leading 21-18, having outscored the Hawks 18-6 in the second quarter.

"All you need is one person to get the fire started and I think that's what happened in the second quarter when we all came out and knew exactly what we needed to happen," Mrowicki said. "We made our shots, played really good defense, and that fired up our offense."

Fendley could not recall the last time her team did not score a field goal in the first quarter.

"Oh gosh, I don't even want to think about it because it's hard to watch," she said with a smile. "I felt that we were getting shots that we wanted but we weren't able to finish. I'm just grateful we were able to still score 60 points and get a win despite it. Our defense in the second quarter helped us turn the tide. We were able to get some nice transition points."

Mackenzie Ginder flipped a nice pass to Annika Manthy (11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) for a 12-footer in the lane that gave Hersey a 27-20 lead in the third quarter.

The Hawks were within 43-41 when sophomore Asia Kobylarczyk banked home a 6-footer to start the final quarter.

But a drive through the lane by senior Natalie Alesia (12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) for a scoop layup ignited a 12-2 run that helped Hersey (5-1) seal the verdict. Ginder's nifty reverse layup followed by a 3-pointer by Alesia put Hersey in front 52-43 with 2:50 left in the game.

Fahy, a junior, led Maine South with 14 points followed by classmate Ava Blagojevich with 11. Sophomores Ally Pape and Katie Barker (three 3-pointers), who sparkled on defense, each had 9.

"Hersey is an excellent basketball team, one of the top ones in the state so congratulations to them," said Hawks coach Jeff Hamann. "We have a lot of respect for them. I felt our girls came out to start the game in a great mindset and we stayed that way the rest of the game. We kept competing and that's what we are about. We are going to keep playing hard and we did not go away. I'm really proud of the girls for their effort. Obviously, we're going to have to correct some things but it's early in the season and we plan on doing that."

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