Daily Herald
Lewis’ long shot lifts Fremd
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 2/7/2013 12:12 AM

If you had to give a title to the 40th annual Mid-Suburban League girls basketball championship on Wednesday night, “Against All Odds” would fit the script.

Brianna Lewis, the smallest player and the only girl in the game who wasn’t in high school a year ago, tossed in a 3-pointer from left of the key in overtime to give unranked Fremd a stunning 66-63 come-from-behind victory over host Rolling Meadows, the No. 3 ranked team in Class 4A.

Ashley McConnell, a four-time veteran of the title match, appeared as if she was going to take the final shot in overtime.

McConnell (23 points, 5 steals, 4 assists), who has scored more than 1,000 points in her career, drove hard to the basket.

But just as defenders began to converge on the senior guard, she flipped a lengthy pass back out to Lewis, who was standing all by herself well behind the arc.

The 5-foot-2 freshman guard showed the poise of the senior and sank the biggest shot of her young career.

It gave Fremd (23-7) its second MSL crown in the last four years and 14th in school history. Rolling Meadows (24-3) suffered its first loss to a Class 4A team this season.

“A lot of odds were against us for our kids to battle back from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter (Fremd closed to within 5 at the half) and a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates whose team fell to Meadows 69-64 last Nov. 21. “Let’s face it. They’re (Meadows) an outstanding team. I’m speechless.”

The near-capacity crowd was loud on every basket and rebound as the two teams put on yet another terrific 36 minutes of basketball. It was all reminiscent of last February’s MSL title game, when Meadows prevailed 52-51 in overtime on a last-second basket by Alexis Glasgow.

Back then, Lewis was earning her third MVP award at Lexington Elementary School in Maywood before moving to the area last summer.

She certainly was Fremd’s MVP in the final seconds Wednesday when she scored her only points of the game.

“I thought Ashley was going to take the shot,” Lewis said. “But then the ball came to me. It wasn’t a particular play. We were just looking for whoever was open and I believed in my shot.”

Yates believed in McConnell to make the right decision.

“That’s just good basketball,” he said. “Ashley had the presence of mind to find the one player and that is always what we are looking for.”

Meadows was looking to put the game away when Glasgow (15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) scooped a nice pass to Jenny Vliet (13 points, 8 rebounds) for a layup and 50-38 lead with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.

But just like it recovered from the 30-16 deficit in the second quarter, Fremd showed its resiliency again.

The Vikings kept cutting away at the margin in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Haley Gorecki (game-high 26 points, 8 rebounds) scored 8 points in first four minutes of the period, including a 3-pointer that got her team to within 52-29.

“The way Haley played in the second half — that’s the Haley I know,” Yates said. “We preached to the kids just hang around, hang around and hang around. I think we did a good job at that and then we made some big plays at the end.”

With 3:04 left, McConnell drilled a 3-pointer and Fremd had its first lead of the night, 54-52.

Meadows guard Jackie Kemph (team-high 18 points, 10 assists) came right back with a 3-point play to regain the lead for her team.

Kemph made another drive moments later and banked in a soft and high shot off the backboard for a 57-54 lead with 2:11 left.

McConnell’s 3-point play with 28.2 seconds left tied the game at 57.

Meadows had a shot roll off the rim with nine seconds left and Fremd missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set up the extra session.

“They made the plays when it counted and they deserved to win,” said Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky. “I don’t know what the free throw statistics were (Meadows was 9-of-18), but it was more a lot of loose balls, more boards where we could have closed the door earlier in the game.”

Instead, it was the Vikes who closed out the win in OT.

After consecutive buckets by Kemph, Fremd’s Bernie Williams (7 points), Meadows’ Morgan Keller and Gorecki, the game was tied at 61.

Then Lewis put on a nifty dribbling display before zipping a nice pass to Marilyn Lortz (6 points, 4 rebounds) for a layup and 63-61 lead with 1:27 left.

Kemph came right back with a layup to tie the game at 63-63.

Lortz grabbed a rebound of a missed free throw with 1:21 and Fremd held the ball until 24.8 seconds remained, when Yates called for a timeout.

Some 23 seconds later Lewis was making one of the biggest shots in MSL title game history.“You never know who it’s going to be,” Kirkorsky said. “We said talking on the bench, you give them a couple of opportunities down the stretch with their players, and they’re going to make a play eventually. She (Lewis) hit a big shot.”

A shot that brought Fremd fans out celebrating — for real, this time.

Fans at last year’s title game will recall Fremd fans ran on the floor believing the officials had waved off the winning basket.

But the matter was cleared up quickly and Meadows was given the thrilling victory.

Yates said early in the week the 2012 game would be tough to top.

Well, the coach might have to rethink that comment.

“I think this one lived up to it,” he said with a smile as big as the ones his players sported when Lewis hit the shot — against all odds.