Entering the IHSA Class 3A Concordia University Supersectional against Nazareth Academy on Feb. 27, Fenwick High School girls basketball coach Lenae Fergerson knew her team was facing a steep challenge, given the Roadrunners are the top-ranked team in the state.
“We knew Naz was going to be a load,” she said. “They’re a well-rounded and well-coached team that’s disciplined.”
The Friars started strong and had an early lead. But Nazareth’s depth, size and talent gradually won out as the Roadrunners used two large runs in each half to notch a 53-20 victory and advance to the Final Four downstate for the fourth time in five seasons.
“For me, I just wanted our girls to fight,” Fergerson said. “That’s what they did. I couldn’t be more proud of this group as a first-year head coach. To make it to a supersectional, I don’t think you could ask for more than that.”
Fenwick (19-17) led 6-3 during the first three minutes of the contest, but Nazareth (33-1) went on a 23-3 run over the next 11 minutes to seize control for good. The Roadrunners took a 28-14 lead into halftime.
“That’s been our Achilles heel; we have moments when we don’t score,” said Fergerson. “But tonight [Nazareth’s] pressure had a lot to do with that. We couldn’t get into the flow of our offense, and [26 turnovers] hurt us.”
Fenwick scored the first four points of the second half and appeared poised to make a charge. But Nazareth, sparked by junior Amelia Dray, went on an 11-0 run to put the game away. Dray scored 10 of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter.
The Roadrunners led 46-20 after three quarters and held the Friars scoreless the rest of the way.
“It was a hard game to watch, but it’s not a tale of how this team has done all year,” Fergerson said. “I told them to don’t put their heads down. Don’t look at the scoreboard, give it your all. At the end, the best team is going to win, and tonight Nazareth was the better team.”
Sophomore Keira Kapsch finished with a team-high seven points, while junior and older sister Grace Kapsch had six points, three rebounds and two assists.
Despite the loss, it was a successful debut season for Fergerson. Not only was she replacing a legendary head coach in Dave Power, she had to replace seven seniors from last year.
Fergerson lauded her five seniors, Cam Brusca, Bella Daley, Raina Ford, Allie Heyer, and Melissa Moduca.
“The seniors have meant everything,” Fergerson said. “They didn’t play much last year, but this year for them to put it all out there and have success is a memory they’ll never forget.
Fenwick will be young next season as Fergerson expects a few sophomores to join the varsity. But with the Kapsch sisters among the returnees, look for the Friars to continue their development.
“I’m very confident in this program,” said Fergerson. “I’m ready to keep building.”