It was a rematch of last years regional championship matchup, but this years iteration came with much higher stakes.
Just like last year, Marist came in as the higher seed, and unfortunately for the Redhawks, Homewood-Flossmoor took them out of their up-tempo offense yet again, to win 45-42 in overtime to claim their first sectional title since 2017.
“It feels good, thanks for bringing that up,” said Homewood-Flossmoor head coach Anthony Smith with a laugh. “It has been a little bit so this is what it takes to break that little streak, but we finally got one.”
The low scoring game started off slower then even Coach Smith and the Vikings could have anticipated.
Whether it was the nerves of the big stage, or the unforgiving rims at Stagg high school, Marist and Homewood-Flossmoor combined for just four points through five minutes of play.
But after the initial drought, the teams started to settle in. Marist’s Sydney Affolter hit a three and a two in quick succession to give Marist the early lead after one quarter.
The two teams remained close through the second quarter until a 9-0 Homewood-Flossmoor run gave them their largest lead of the game at five points.
However, Marist chipped away behind senior Jenna Ryan’s 14 points, as she came up with big shot after big shot to keep the Redhawks close.
The Vikings held Marist at an arms length thanks to Tia Morgan’s seven point third quarter as the H-F offense was struggling to maintain an advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Smith said: “This is Tia’s team, she’s the face of our program since Grace [Hall] has been out, and she stepped up.”
Homewood-Flossmoor looked to have things under control late in the game, limiting Marist’s possessions while maintaining a two possession game, but poor free throw shooting down the stretch, along with Affolter getting into the lane at will flipped the script and gave Marist a one point lead with just 20 seconds remaining.
Down one, on Homewood-Flossmoors last possession, freshman Alyssa Latham grabbed an offensive board, drew the foul and held her nerve just enough to split a pair of free throws and send the game into overtime.
“We’ve been pretty solid all year shooting free throws, but today was not one of those days,” said Coach Smith. “I was nervous, I can’t lie to you but I know she puts in the time and effort. We have free throw contests every day and she always wins.
In the overtime period foul trouble plagued Marist. Despite taking an early lead, Morgan Flynn, and Jenna Ryan fouled out in quick succession.
A costly error from Homewood-Flossmoor nearly saw their four point lead evaporate, but it was Latham who once again saved them at the charity stripe and sealed the win with a block of Affolter on the other win.
“It’s real tough to just stay straight up and not reach over,” said Smith. “She’s blessed with a lot of abilities, so I’d like to thank her parents for that. She’s long, she’s athletic, she has the right DNA.”
Homewood-Flossmoor will travel to Illinois Weslyan University for super-sectionals to face a well traveled Lincoln-Way West team who had to travel a total of 960 miles round trip in their first four games.
The super-sectional will take place on Monday night at 7:00pm with a trip to Redbird Arena on the line.