Lake Zurich stuns Hersey in regional final
Sixth-seeded Lake Zurich was a dangerous team heading into its Class 4A regional championship game against No. 3 Hersey Friday night at Grant.
And despite being a heavy underdog, the Bears pulled off the upset, beating the state-ranked Huskies 54-51.
The win marked Lake Zurich's first regional title since it reached the Elite Eight in 2018. The Bears (19-11) will face No. 2-seed Fremd in the Warren sectional semifinals Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
LZ opened up a 19-11 lead after one quarter but Hersey (27-6) did cut the lead to 32-27 at halftime.
But the Huskies were in big trouble as they trailed Lake Zurich 44-31 after three quarters as the Bears went on a 12-point run to close out the period.
Lake Zurich wound up going on a 16-point run for its biggest lead at 48-31 with 6:28 to play, and the Huskies could never overcome that insurmountable lead.
Balanced scoring and strong rebounding were the keys to victory for Lake Zurich from start to finish as the Bears got double-figure scoring from junior Baylie Parks (15 points), senior Alayna Soukup (12), sophomore Anna Gilbertson (12), and freshman Avery Cooper (11).
"I'm honestly just so excited right now. We've been waiting for this for a long time, and we came to win," said Parks, who had 9 points in the tone-setting first half. "We knew we had to attack the boards and get easy points when we could."
Hersey junior standout Katy Eidle tried to keep the Huskies' season alive with 20 of her game-high 32 points in the first half, and 6 3-pointers overall. But other than Eidle, Hersey's offense struggled to get rolling the whole game. Hersey's Annika Manthy scored 5 points while Lake Zurich's Kaylie Piggott chipped in 4 points.
"They're a great team, and we're just ecstatic to get that win," said Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett, whose team outscored Hersey 12-4 in the pivotal third quarter. "We have seven kids who can score 10 points in any game, and that makes us hard to guard. This was the 15th team we played that was ranked in the Top 15 in the AP poll. And from start to finish, taking care of fundamentals that was the best game we played."
Hersey coach Mary Fendley was disappointed that her squad could not advance to the sectional. But it was just not meant to be for the Huskies on this fateful winter night.
"They owned the boards and it took away our transition," said Fendley. "Katy tried to carry us on her back and her defense was great. But tonight just wasn't our night in a lot of respects."
An 8-1 run capped by a steal and basket by Eidle cut the lead to 50-41 with 1:13 to play. But that was as close as the Huskies would get the rest of the way as the Bears were able to run out the clock without much resistance in the final minute.