Playing in pain: Mary Kate Herion leads the Ramblers in made 3-pointers

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WILMETTE — The lower back pain that forced Loyola’s Mary Kate Herion to miss parts of the last two basketball seasons persists, but the senior guard has been determined to stay on the court for her final campaign.

“It’s actually gotten worse, but I’m playing through it this year,” she said.

Herion performs a series of exercises to help manage the discomfort.

Before every basketball game, Herion said she does a couple of simple stretches to loosen up her lower back.

Herion also works out her core muscles while at home. The most common exercises she performs are planks and leg lifts while lying on the floor.

Herion’s ability to cope with the pain has given Loyola a lift on the perimeter.

Herion is the Ramblers’ top threat from the outside. Through 28 games, she has made a team-best 64 3-pointers, hitting on 36 percent of her 176 attempts. Herion is second on the team in scoring at 10 points a game.

Loyola coach Jeremy Schoenecker said Herion’s proficiency from the perimeter and junior forward Sarah Elston’s play on the interior has given his team a potent one-two punch. Herion and Elston often are on the same side of the court and work in conjunction with one another to create open looks.

“That’s a combo we always wanted,” said Schoenecker, whose team took second at the GCAC Red tournament after a 58-54 loss to Mother McAuley on Saturday. “You can’t sag off Mary Kate to help in the post, and you can’t commit too much to Mary Kate or Sarah is open. They both have done a good job at reading defenses.”

The tandem helped the Ramblers (19-9 entering the week) earn the No. 3 seed at the Class 4A Maine East Sectional.

Herion’s affinity for the 3-pointer started when she was in grade school.

“My dad drilled that in to me, and we always worked on it together, usually going to St. Juliana’s gym to practice,” Herion said.

Herion said the back pain started during her eighth-grade season at Chicago’s St. Juliana. Despite multiple trips to different doctors, she said she still doesn’t know what is wrong.

“[My back] is just something I’ve learned to deal with this season,” she said.

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