Libertyville drops physical battle with Kenwood in OT

Libertyville star guard Emily Fisher left the gymnasium with an ice bag on both knees.

Junior teammate Kate Rule admitted she was exhausted.

So was her sister, Rachel.

The Wildcats had several scars from their exhausting and physically demanding game against highly ranked Kenwood at the 33rd Annual Coach Derril Kipp's Hoopfest, held at Benet High School on Monday afternoon.

In front of 20-plus college coaches, the Wildcats nearly gained a signature nonconference win before falling 73-68 in overtime to the Broncos.

Fisher, a Maryland recruit, sat out the final minute of regulation and the entire overtime after picking up her fifth foul. She still managed to showcase her tremendous two-way talents, finishing with a game-high 24 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Fisher shot 13-of-15 from the free-throw line, nearly carrying the Wildcats (17-4) to a victory until foul trouble forced her to the bench.

A physically strong, athletic and powerful player, Fisher said it was the toughest regular season game of her four-year varsity career. The 6-footer fell to the ground several times, and was affected by the lack of calls on several of her drives.

"I think we had this win," Fisher said. "I don't know if me fouling out was a big part of it. We had the energy, but just lost it. We don't usually play this aggressive of a team. Kenwood is a well-rounded team, and one of the top teams we will play."

Fisher, who scored 12 points in the third quarter, played the final quarter in limited duty due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third. She called the loss a good learning experience.

"I just wish I was smarter with my fouls, and I could've made a difference at the end of the game," Fisher said. "It was a good game. We played well."

Rachel Rule had a big game that should help her future, scoring 21 points, grabbing 4 rebounds and hitting 4 3-pointers. Rule carried the Wildcats in overtime, drilling a pair of 3s and scoring another basket for 8 points.

"Kenwood plays so fast and they are so quick and really hard to guard," Rachel Rule said. "We all wanted this game and it was very important. I'm exhausted. This game will help us for the future. We will learn from this and move on."

Meanwhile, Kate Rule continued her stellar season with 13 points and 7 rebounds, including making 2 free throws with 29.6 left in overtime to cut the deficit to 69-68.

"Kenwood is a really good team and we learned we have to keep our energy for the whole game," Kate Rule said. "I'm really tired. Kenwood runs a lot and is really athletic and made it very tough. This is a great experience. I loved playing one of the best teams in the state. We're looking to improve the rest of the season and in the playoffs."

The Wildcats, who defeated defending Class 4A state champion Stevenson on Friday, certainly did learn a lot about themselves, plus gained some confidence in the defeat which might aid them in their longtime goal of playing deep into the Class 4A playoffs. The Wildcats nearly won the game in regulation, leading by 5 points with 90 seconds left. Kenwood senior Natasha Barnes, a Missouri State recruit, saved the game for her team by banking in a 22-foot 3-pointer from near the top of the key with 12.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 58-58. Barnes led the Broncos (16-4) with 18 points and Ariella Henigan had 16.

Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen was disappointed with the defeat, yet noted the long-term positives of several players stepping up in adverse situations. Kenwood's aggressive defense made bringing the ball up the court extremely difficult, especially in overtime with Fisher on the bench.

"We had key people in foul trouble," Pedersen said. "We have to be smarter. I'm proud of the kids and how they responded to the challenge. Kenwood is a really good team. I think we showed we belong in the class with all of these top 10, top 20 teams.

"This will help us get ready for the playoffs, and does bode well for the future. We have a lot of underclassmen trying to make it happen today when it counted."

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