Host Friars fall to Nazareth in 3A sectional final

Underclassmen Heneghan, Hinrichs and Hall lead Fenwick in scoring

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

The IHSA Class 3A girls basketball sectional title game between host Fenwick and Nazareth Academy turned out to be starkly different than last year's meeting at the very same stage of the playoffs.

Whereas last year's contest was high-scoring, the rematch was a physical, low-scoring affair in which players on both teams struggled to score.

Everyone except for Nazareth's Annie Stritzel. The senior star delivered a special performance, scoring 36 points to carry the Roadrunners past the Friars 46-37 in the Fenwick Sectional final.

It's the second consecutive year Nazareth (30-3) has defeated the Friars (23-12) for the sectional title.

"It's amazing. We knew this was going to be a tough one," Stritzel said after the game. "But it's not over until we get that state championship W. This is fun but I can't imagine how much more fun it's going to be next weekend."

Stritzel scored all 12 of Nazareth's points during a pivotal third quarter, while Fenwick scored just one - on a free throw by Audrey Hinrichs. The Roadrunners extended their 21-18 halftime lead to 33-19 after three quarters. The Friars would come no closer than four points the rest of the way.

Fenwick head coach Dave Power felt the third quarter was the pivotal moment of the contest.

"The third quarter really killed us," Power said. "It was reminiscent of last year (2018 sectional final) when our second quarter killed us. We came back hard at them in the fourth quarter, but with the hill we had to climb, we just couldn't quite get to the top."

The Friars opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 35-26 which forced Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel to  call a timeout. The host team's run continued to 15-5 as Fenwick pulled within four (38-34) midway through the fourth quarter.

"We gained our energy back and we really wanted it," Fenwick sophomore Lauren Hall said about the Friars' rally. "We played hard; it's a tough loss."

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Friars trailed 40-36 and gained possession after an offensive foul was called on Annie Stritzel. But with 1:40 left, Elise Heneghan missed an inside shot.

Annie Stritzel rebounded the ball and dribbled coast-to-coast for a critical layup. After that made basket Nazareth scored five of the game's final six points to secure the victory. 

Nazareth point guard Jovanna Martinucci made a determined effort to get the ball to Stritzel. 

"She was huge," Martinucci said about her teammate.  "I looked at Annie and said, 'I will do everything I can to get you the ball and do whatever you need to do.'"
 
While the other players struggled to score, Stritzel dominated on offense. The Friars in particular missed several wide-open looks from 3-point range.
 
However, Fenwick kept the score close thanks to a good inside effort by freshman forward Audrey Hinrichs. Her six points allowed the Friars to trail by just three points - 21-18 - at the half.
 
Both teams played a very physical brand of basketball, which ithe Roadrunners anticipated.
 
"We knew we had to stay in this game with physicality," Martinucci said. "We might have been the smaller team, but we knew we had to out-physical them and keep our heads together.
 
"Last year, we had 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 forwards," Martinucci added. "This year, we knew we were going to be smaller. We just had to start playing faster and more aggressive."
 
Freshmen forwards Elise Heneghan and Hinrichs led Fenwick in scoring with eight points apiece. Heneghan added 10 rebounds.

Power praised his prized pair of first-year players.  

"For them being young, to get to this level is a great experience. I think it's going to carry them well in the future," Power said. "The interesting thing is that they were bawling their eyes out because they wanted to win so badly for the seniors. They were just so happy with how they were embraced by them.

"So now their goal is to carry on the tradition, because (the seniors) have helped bring Fenwick back to where we're in the hunt for a state trophy every year."

Hall had seven points and Lily Reardon six for Fenwick.

"I think we did really well this season," Hall said. "We played as a team with everyone contributing. We had great chemistry This is one of the best teams I've ever played on."
 
Despite the loss, next season looks very bright for Fenwick. Hall, Heneghan, Hinrichs, Reardon, Sheila Hogan and Kate Schneider return for the Friars. They'll be joined by players from the freshmen and sophomore squads, which enjoyed strong seasons and have very good talent. With an accomplished head coach in Dave Power leading the way, expect another contending year from Fenwick in 2019-2020.

Nazareth advances to the 3A supersectional on Monday night at Concordia University in River Forest. The Roadrunners face Lindblom, a 66-61 winner over Phillips in the De La Salle Sectional. The winner will move on to the 3A semifinals next weekend at Illinois State Redbird Arena.

 

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