BLOOMINGTON - Paige Fiedorowicz made it look easy Saturday night at Shirk Center. The hard part came immediately after the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Girls Class AA All-Star Game.
"The MVP for the Class AA North is Paige ….," the public address announcer said, pausing to take a stab at the last name. "… Fiedorowicz."
Fiedorowicz may not be easy to pronounce. Not that easy to spell, either.
That didn't stop her from making a name for herself in an 82-77 victory over the Class AA South.
The 6-foot-1 forward from Johnsburg lit up the South for 17 points and six rebounds in the first half. The Marquette recruit finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the North held on after squandering an 11-point first-half lead.
"The first day we were here (Friday) we just all got along so well. I think that helped me a lot, just making me feel more comfortable," Fiedorowicz said. "The first 3-pointer went in and I took it from there. That kind of takes some pressure off of your shoulders. You can just play your game and have fun."
Fiedorowicz sank two 3s in the first two minutes to get the North off and running.
In Saturday night's first game, the Class A South rode the 15 points and eight rebounds of Illinois recruit Chelsea Buher to an 89-64 win over the Class A North.
Fiedorowicz's hot start helped the North to a 12-4 lead. The margin was 42-37 at the half, but the South, keyed by team MVP Tracy Pontius of Morton, charged back to take a 65-63 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Illinois State recruit Amanda Clifton, a point guard from Rock Island Alleman, broke loose for a pair of layups in the next three minutes to give the North a 67-65 edge. The North never trailed after that, though the South was still within 78-76 with 1:24 to go.
A free throw by Fiedorowicz, a basket by Illinois-Chicago recruit Ashley Tomzik (15 points) and a free throw by Clifton (six points) iced the win.
"I think for only having two practices, we played well together," Fiedorowicz said. "When it came down to it, everyone passed well and no one forced anything."
Pontius, a guard bound for Bowling Green, finished with 18 points to lead the South. Bloomington's Kristin Petrinec, a 6-2 center headed to Illinois-Chicago, had eight rebounds and two blocked shots to go with two points.
"Even though it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, it's a lot more fun to come back and be competitive like that," Petrinec said. "(Fiedorowicz) can post guards up and she can take post players, so it's hard to stop her."
Leadership awards went to Downers Grove South's Alexandra Petrakos for the North and Salem's Ellen Young for the South.
The 6-1 Buher, a guard from Law-renceville, earned the South MVP award. She was relatively quiet in the first half as her team built a 43-27 lead, but came out on fire in the second half.
Buher scored seven points in the first two minutes and had nine of her team's first 13 second-half points, helping create a 56-34 cushion.
"I finally got some legs under me and we just started flowing a little better in that second half," Buher said. "I still have some things to work on. But this game definitely makes me want to play right now and get started (at Illinois)."
Six-two Ball State recruit Emily Maggert of Paris led the South with 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. Breese Central's Kaitlin Wiegmann, who has narrowed her college choices to Illinois Wesleyan and Maryville, added nine points and earned the South's leadership award.
"We worked on some plays in practice. But mainly we just looked for the open player," Wiegmann said. "People weren't selfish and we got the open shot. We pounded it in the post when we needed to and our guards were bigger too, so we worked with that as well."
Ellen Fennell of IVC scored 10 points to pace the North, which never recovered from a 12-1 deficit to start the game. Parkland College recruit Jara Bachtold of Prairie Central had seven points and three rebounds for the North, which had no one taller than 6-0 while the South had three 6-2 players.
"We were trying to use our speed to get around them," Bachtold said. "But it was kind of hard to get around them when I drove. We were sluggish at the beginning. In the end, we kind of picked up our momentum and made some shots."
Stark County guard Whitney Rumbold had nine points and four rebounds to earn the North MVP award. The North leadership award went to Carolin Folven of Byron.