MIKE NIETO: A good old neighborhood battle until the end

2014-03-14T22:30:00Z 2014-03-15T01:32:07Z MIKE NIETO: A good old neighborhood battle until the endMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
March 14, 2014 10:30 pm  • 

HARVEY | The Homewood-Flossmoor boys basketball team had one more ounce of fight left in it Friday night in the Class 4A Thornton Sectional final.

Marian Catholic had just a little more as it won its second straight sectional title, outscoring the Vikings 10-2 in the last 1 1/2 minutes.

Marian beat its neighborhood rival 71-60.

A packed house with both sides cheering and screaming at the tops of their lungs, it was what high school sports is about.

Homewood-Flossmoor did its best to pull off another postseason upset, but too many third-quarter mistakes and Tyler Ulis did them in.

"We turned the ball over way too many times in that third quarter and that what hurt us," H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. "Even after getting down, we battled back like we did all year. I am so proud of these kids how they battled."

This was a team that had nine seniors, but no returning starters. The Vikings had a three-game losing streak earlier this season, but instead of giving up, fought back with a tough schedule.

"We knew we would take some early losses because of the schedule," McLaughlin said. "We wanted that type of schedule to get us ready for March and it did."

The Vikings almost didn't get to play in the postseason as they got a last-minute reprieve from the Illinois High School Association, which had considered removing it from the tourney, like it did to the H-F girls team.

The Vikings Tai Odiase said he and his teammates never let the losses or anything distract them.

"Three losses and people were counting us out (in December), but we didn't give up," Odiase said. "We had a nice run, but tonight, we turned the ball over too much and just couldn't handle their pressure.

"We knew we were going to fight until the end."

H-F (17-12), the No. 6 seed in the balanced Thornton Sectional complex, upset No. 3 Thornton to win the Lincoln-Way West Regional on March 7, then upset No. 2 seed Thornwood on Wednesday. THe Vikings gave top-seeded Marian a run for its money, as it had a 37-32 halftime lead.

"They really pushed us and fought to the end," Marian's Terrone Parham said. "They never quit. they kept coming at us. We knew that they would."

With eight third-quarter turnovers, the Spartans opened up a 55-46 lead as H-F went over 5 1/2 minutes from the end of the third quarter until 5:13 left in the game without scoring a field goal. Still, it made a run and closed within 61-58 on a Emmanuel Watts basket with 2:02 left.

Both teams went at it full speed, but after the game McLaughlin and Marian coach Mike Taylor exchanged smiles and good words. So did the players as they hugged on the court.

"Great rivalry," Marian's Josh Cohn said. "You see how they came back. we knew they would have a run left in them. They are a very good team."

So is Marian.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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