State-bound Hersey writes storybook ending
This one is right out of Hollywood.
A retiring Hersey head girls basketball coach and assistant, who worked side by side for 25 seasons, will exit from their four-star careers on the big stage in Normal.
Mary Fendley and Julia Barthel watched their senior-led cast produce a terrific drama on Monday night, coming back from a 35-20 deficit in the first half and 11-point deficit in the third quarter to pull out a 66-61 triumph over Maine South in the Class 4A Fremd supersectional in Palatine.
The Huskies (28-8) will face O'Fallon (31-4) in Friday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal at Illinois State.
"I'm so happy for them (Fendley and Barthel)," said Katy Eidle, the Michigan-bound four-year starter who had a starring role with a game-high 28 points. "It's great obviously for me but also for the team and especially for our coaches being their last year. I'm just glad we did it for our fans and our school. It's just incredible."
Trailing 44-33 with 5:31 left in the third quarter, Eidle and fellow senior Meghan Mrowicki combined to score the next 23 points for Hersey which took its first lead since the first two minutes of the game at 55-54 with under five minutes to play.
"There was never a doubt these seniors would take care of what needed to be done," Barthel said. "This is the hardest working team that has been on a journey for a very long time and it finally paid off. They deserved it."
"I'm so unbelievably proud of not just the way they played but how these seniors led," Fendley said.
"I do believe that coaches get too much blame when we lose and too much credit when we win, but Julia Barthel is equally responsible for every single thing we have achieved not this season but all of them and I know all 15 of us in the locker room would agree with that."
Megan Fahy led the Hawks (26-8) with 17 points, followed by Ava Blagojevich (15) and Katie Barker (13). Asia Kobylarczyk and Caitlin Leyden each had 7.
"When you're facing a team and program like Heresy and the amount of decorated athletes they have, you knew they were going to make a run and we talked about it," said Maine South coach Jeff Hamann. "All the credit goes to Hersey for their resolve and their perseverance. Credit goes to them. I am no way thinking we gave that game away. It was not like we were making silly turnovers. Sometimes the shots we were going in in the first half just weren't falling in the second half.
"But credit goes to Hersey and their kids. Obviously, Katy Eidle is special and they have a legendary coach. So congratulations to them."
Mrowicki added 14 for Hersey followed by senior Natalie Alesia 12 and sophomore Annika Manthy 10.
"Of course, it's a dream to finish your career at Illinois State," Fendley said. "To have a senior-led team I feel like that's why we were able to pull it out despite our big deficits. I think there are the intangible seniors and that was the difference. I was dumbfounded at how to keep them from getting offensive rebounds. But my kids were battling in there. It was them forgetting to pick up offensive rebounds, Maine South is just that strong and intuitive. That's why they led most of the game. They really dominated the boards. So for my kids to rebound much better out of a zone in the second half, I think just says something about the resilience that we've had all season. We might be down but we're not out."
And Fendley and Barthel are down to their final two games and hardly out from providing more storylines.