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It’s Meadows, in a Thriller
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff

Rolling Meadows' Jackie Kemph, left, drives on Fremd's Ashley McConnell during their game Wednesday night at Lake Zurich High School.


Steve Lundy/

Fremd’s Ashley McConnell gets the ball stripped by Rolling Meadows’ Sami Kay as she drives to the hoop Wednesday night at Lake Zurich.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Rolling Meadows’ Alexis Glasgow, right, and Fremd’s Brianna Lewis battle for a loose ball Wednesday night at Lake Zurich.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Rolling Meadows’ Jackie Kemph, right, plays some tough defense on Fremd’s Ashley McConnell Wednesday night at Lake Zurich.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Rolling Meadows’ Ashley Montanez, right, passes as Fremd’s Brianna Lewis defends during their game Wednesday night at Lake Zurich.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Steve Lundy/ Rolling Meadows' Jenny Vliet, left, and Fremd's Marilyn Lortz battle for a rebound during their game Wednesday night at Lake Zurich High School.


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Published: 11/21/2012 11:50 PM

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When they last battled 10 months ago, Rolling Meadows and Fremd went to overtime before the Mustangs won the Mid-Suburban League championship by 1 point.

The two powerhouse girls basketball teams met for another championship Wednesday night.

Playing for title of the Turkey Thriller Tournament hosted by Lake Zurich, the two teams once again thrilled a captive audience, this time for 32 minutes with electrifying up-tempo play.

When the final horn sounded, the defending MSL champs held off a valiant late rally by the Vikings for a 69-64 victory.

Jackie Kemph, the 2011-12 MSL East player of the Year, helped lead the way for Meadows (6-0, 5-0 in the tourney) with a season-high 28 points, 8 assists and 2 steals.

But the 5-fooot-6 junior guard was crediting her taller companions.

“I thought our ‘bigs’ were awesome,” said Kemph, who helped dish the ball inside to 6-foot senior Morgan Keller (10 points, 7 rebounds) and 6-1 junior Ashley Montanez (9 points, 7 rebounds).

“We knew we had a height advantage and I thought Morgan and Ashley were tremendous,” said Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky. “Jackie controlled the game and thought Lexi (Alexis Glasgow, who had 4 assists with 9 points and 4 rebounds) made some good looks into the post and played great defense on Haley Gorecki (Fremd sophomore) who made some amazing shots. It was one of Lexi’s most complete floor games.”

Gorecki poured home a career-high 28 points — 20 in the second half — while grabbing 8 rebounds.

Senior guard Ashley McConnell, the 2011-12 MSL West Player of the Year, came up with 19 points (4 3-pointers) and 2 assists for Fremd (4-1).

“Haley and Ashley played lights-out,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates, whose team defeated Meadows 67-55 in the Turkey Thriller opener last season.

Meadows (6-0, 5-0 in tourney) got a 3-pointer and coast-to-coast layup by Kemph for a quick 5-0 lead and led 10-2 after a 3-pointer by Glasgow and fastbreak layup by Kemph, who scored 19 points in the first half.

Meadows led by least 6 points the rest of the half.

The lead grew to 14 points midway through the second quarter when Montanez took a nice pass from junior Sami Kay and converted a layup to make it 34-20.

“We dug ourselves a 15-foot hole,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates. “And we brought only a 10-foot ladder.”

Fremd got to within 42-34 at intermission.

Kay’s 16 footer from the baseline midway through the third quarter gave Meadows a 46-36 lead, its biggest in the second half.

“Sami played solidly offensively and defensively,” Kirkorsky said.A 3-pointer by Gorecki at third-quarter buzzer got Fremd to within 52-48.

Two free throws by Gorecki and a 3-pointer by McConnell brought the Vikes to within 62-59 with 3:33 left in the game.

But Meadows would not let the defending MSL West champs any closer. A big 3-point play by Glasgow extended the lead to 65-59 with 2:06 left.

Fremd pulled to within 68-64 on Gorecki’s second 3-pointer when Yates called a timeout.

But Kemph dribbled the ball down court following the timeout, was fouled and made a free throw for the 69-64 lead with 20.4 seconds left.

Fremd missed two shots on its final possession giving Meadows’ the 5-point win in the first of what could be a few more meetings.

“It was nice to win this time because I vividly remember our loss to them in this tournament last year,” Kemph said. “That was a bad game. This feels way better. And we could see them a few more times. That would be good. I know they will be successful.”

Also impacting Meadow’s successful transition game was Jenny Vliet, who had 7 points and 7 rebounds.

“Jenny’s impact sometimes goes unnoticed,” Kirkorsky said. “But she just has a calming influence out there for us.”

Marilyn Lortz had 5 rebounds and 4 assists for Fremd while teammate Catherine Ernst contributed 5 assists. Hannah LaBarge collected 3 assists and 3 rebounds and Bernie Williams scored 8 points.

“It’s always a good game with them (Meadows),” Yates said. “Credit them for getting off to a good start. Every time we’d get to 4 or 6 points, they had an answer. They made big plays, big shots. I coach a lot of those Meadows girls in AAU so I know they are very capable players.”

Kirkorsky knew his Mustangs would be tested.

“We knew they were going to score,” he said. “But when they did, our kids didn’t blink an eye and came right back down and answered.”

“We like to get down the court fast,” Kemph said. “We wanted to make sure we never got behind.”

Yates wants to make sure his team gets better.

“When you play a great team, and we are a great team, too, you find out something about yourself,” he said. “We knew a lot of team around here haven’t gotten tested like this. You learn a lot. We even talked afterward that’s it’s all about getting better.”

For the fans, it doesn’t get any better than when these two team clash.