The MSL championship game between No. 10 Hersey Huskies and No. 13 Fremd Vikings had all a conference championship could hope for.
Back and forth play for fourth quarters, aggressive defense, tremendous effort, freshman stepping to the forefront and a furious comeback. However when it was all said and done, it was the senior leadership and will to win of Olivia Hill with 17 second half points that propelled Fremd to the 57-56 victory.
“You got to love it,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates on his senior leader. “She willed us back into that game, it was awesome to see her play at that level. She hit a big one to put us over, she kept at it.”
From the opening tip and a layup from Hersey’s Mary Kate Fahey the action was on. Both teams traded baskets as each score of the quarter resulted in a lead change or a tie as the teams took a 12-12 into the second quarter.
The back and forth action continued in the second quarter, but unlike the opening frame, Hersey was able to extend the lead to 27-20 after back to back three pointers by Mary McGrath and freshman Maggie Mrowicki before maintaining a 31-24 lead going into the half.
After scoring only two points in the opening half it was Fremd’s senior forward Olivia Hill took it upon herself to keep the Vikings in the game.
Hill scored Fremd’s first six points out of the half including a spectacular rebound and coast to coast layup.
“We talked a lot about getting to the basket more. I thought in the first half we shot some perimeter jump shots a little quick and credit them (Hersey) they made shots,” said Yates on his halftime talk. “We were down for awhile because they finished and we didn’t.
Despite being put on the back foot early in the second half, Hersey was able to withstand Hill’s nine point onslaught thanks to the freshman tandem of Katy Eidle and Mrowicki who combined for 9 of Hersey’s 15 in the quarter.
Taking a 47-40 lead into the final frame Hersey continued to keep their foot on the gas in order to put the game away. Employing a full court press and controlling possessions for a good shot Hersey continued to lead 54-47 with just under three minutes to go.
But, Hall once again took over setting up Fremd’s Grace LaBarge for a three, followed by another assist, this time to Ruthie Montella, cut the Hersey lead to one at 54-53 with just 1:39 left.
Fremd would take their first lead since early in the second quarter on their next possession, but the young Huskies battled right back with Mrowicki converting a turnover into a layup to give the lead back to Hersey.
On the ensuing inbound, Hill ran to the corner and was inbounded the ball. She turned back towards the lane and drove through four Hersey defenders for a layup and a 57-56 lead which would end up as the final score as a layup attempt by Fahey through traffic that fell short giving the Vikings the win and their 19th MSL championship.
“I was really frustrated at first, but then I was like next play, which has been our motto this week,” concluded Hill. “I just went for it.”
Next up for both teams is regional play next week. The number one seed Hersey will take on the winner of Waukegan and Round Lake next Tuesday at Carmel. The number three seed Fremd will face Warren at home and if they win will face the winner of Buffalo Grove and Prospect for the regional title next Thursday.