At this level, it always comes down to execution.
Which is why Fremd beat Zion-Benton 55-54 Monday in the semifinals of the Class 4A Libertyville Sectional.
In the closing seconds of the tight contest, Zion-Benton missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity with 15.8 seconds left, and Fremd’s Haley Gorecki took full advantage by converting a three-point play with 2.1 seconds to win it.
Fremd (24-7) will face Rolling Meadows on Thursday for the title. The teams split a pair this season, with Rolling Meadows winning in November and Fremd prevailing in overtime two weeks ago.
“We’ve had a few emotional wins in the last few weeks. I’m really proud of our kids,” said Fremd coach David Yates. “You tell the girls you have to play out to the end, and they made some big plays at the end of the game.”
None bigger than Gorecki’s.
After Zion’s free-throw miss, Fremd took a timeout with 7.3 seconds left. The ball went to Gorecki behind the arc and she drove to the basket, scoring from five feet away while being fouled by Syerra Cunningham.
The ensuing free throw won it, as Zion’s halfcourt heave hit backboard but no rim.
“That was as exciting, if not more exciting, than the MSL championship (the win over Rolling Meadows),” said Gorecki. “It’s not a sectional-championship game, but it’s definitely a step on the way to state.
“We have so many goals and getting to state is one of them.”
Ashley McConnell led the Vikings with 23 points, including three three-point bombs in the fourth quarter. Gorecki had 22 points along with five steals.
For Zion, junior Sam Rodriguez had 20 points and five assists. Syerra Cunningham ended her prep career with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m happy that the kids came out and gave a really good effort. You can’t point to any one thing. It was a game that could have gone either way,” said Zion coach Tanya Johnson. “We couldn’t defend them on the final play.”