Playing like the team that had 20 victories, Homewood-Flossmoor took control early and held on late Friday night against Thornton.
H-F built a 32-19 halftime lead, saw a 12-point advantage vanish in the third quarter, then rallied in the final minute of the game for a 49-45 victory to win the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Regional.
“We’re the sixth (sectional) seed, they’re third seed. They had way more wins than us,’’ H-F senior Tai Odiase said. “Everybody had us as the underdog. It feels real good right now.’’
It also felt real good for junior Destin Barnes, who's jumper near the corner of the free-throw line gave H-F a 46-45 lead with 58 seconds to play after his drive to the basket tied the game at 44-44 with three minutes left.
“Coach puts me in that situation, he encourages me to take that shot,’’ Barnes said. “That’s a shot I take every day. I just step into it and take it in rhythm.’’
Sophomore Kendrick Pryor stepped in front of a Thornton pass and sealed the victory on a layup for the 49-45 lead with eight seconds to play.
“I saw that it was a lazy pass so I took a chance to go get it and get the layup,’’ Pryor said. “It stopped them from shooting the three. It felt good that I’m a sophomore and I stepped up in the clutch.’’
Odiase scored a game-high 16 points to go with four rebounds, three blocks and two steals, despite picking up his third foul late in the second quarter.
“When I get three fouls, I know I have to play smarter,’’ Odiase said. “I know how to play defense without picking up any fouls.’’
H-F (16-13) advances to the Wednesday semifinal of the Thornton Sectional to face Thornwood, an 81-58 winner over Oak Forest.
“All the doubters who said that we couldn’t get this far, it makes the season feel really good,’’ Barnes said. “People think we couldn’t do it because of our record, but it’s playoff basketball.’’
Barnes finished with 10 points and seven rebounds while Pryor and Malcolm Grady each scored eight points.
“We’ve got a really tough group of guys,’’ H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. “We’ve got 11 losses on the season and I think eight were by three points or less.’’
Thornton (20-6) played its second straight game without leading scorer Justin Taylor (sprained ankle).
“We didn’t want to take a chance. We decided not to go with him,’’ Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. “We were hoping we’d get this win and he’d be ready by Wednesday.’’
Thornton was led by Da’Marques Turner (13 points) and Leslie Wilson (9 points). Brian Davis had 11 rebounds.
“They fought, man, they fought,’’ Jackson said. “It hurts a lot. We had high expectations. H-F record-wise didn’t have a good season, but they’re still H-F.’’