For most players, a contested three-pointer from the corner is far from an ideal jump shot.
Providence-St. Mel’s Bernard Lilly Jr. isn’t one of those players.
With a trip to the state finals on the line, Lilly Jr. swished a corner three with a hand in his face with 40 seconds to go Tuesday in a tie game, lifting Providence-St. Mel to a 50-46 victory at the Class 2A Joliet Central Supersectional.
“That’s always been my sweet spot,” Lilly Jr. said. “Ever since third grade, anyone who knows me, knows they’ll find me in the corner. The coaches told me to keep shooting, and I was fortunate to hit the shot.”
Providence-St. Mel (24-6) advances to Friday’s 2A state semifinals where the Knights will play Bloomington Central Catholic.
Lilly Jr. led a balanced attack with 11 points, Carl Garner adding 10 with Tevin King, Joshuan McNeal and Tyler Turner scoring nine apiece for the Spartans who had lost in the supersectional the previous two years.
As for the corner three, Lilly picked a great time to hit his first jump shot of the night, his previous two baskets coming at the rim. But following a Providence timeout with 1:08 to go, there Lilly was in the corner.
The senior guard missed a layup attempt, but in the scrum for the rebound, Garner came up with the ball and found Lilly in the corner.
“When Carl was fortunate enough to get the rebound, I knew I had to get to the open spot,” Lilly said. “If I had an open look, I had to knock it down.”
After an Eddie Miles missed layup for Hales at the other end, King rebounded the ball and was fouled. He drilled one of two to seal the win. In last season’s Supersectional loss, King had a shot at a game-winner in the closing seconds only to come up short.
“It felt great,” King said. “That first shot, it was just a little over the rim. I rushed it, but that second one? Just calm.”
Miles (13 points) and Tim Robertson (11 points) paced Hales Franciscan (19-13) in the loss. The Spartans went up 42-37 midway through the fourth, starting the quarter on an 11-0 run.
“That Lilly shot came on a second-chance shot, and they just killed us there,” Hales Franciscan coach Gary London said. “Providence really hit the defensive boards. It hurts at the moment, but we do have four starters coming back. This was a great experience for the guys, and it is a process.”