PALOS HILLS | A few blocks were all it took to calm Homewood-Flossmoor sophomore Jaiveonna Norris in her first big playoff game.
Hard shots, hard fouls and hard passes showed Homewood-Flossmoor was perhaps a little too amped Thursday night in its Class 4A Stagg Regional final against Sandburg.
Seeking their third straight regional title and trying to defeat the Eagles for a third time this season, the Vikings were 6-for-15 from the field in the first quarter and needed to settle into their game in an eventual 54-39 win.
"Coach said to calm down and eventually things would start falling," Norris said. "Getting those early blocks calmed me down. It boosted up my confidence but calmed me down."
Norris had 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and fill-in point guard Lauren Parker had a team-high 13 points and four assists as H-F (23-6) advanced to face Lincoln-Way East at the Sandburg Sectional on Tuesday. The teams split the regular-season series.
"This year we really have a chance to go far," said Norris, who was not on the varsity last season. "This can be our best year."
With regular point guard Charnelle Reed still day-to-day with a knee injury, Parker, a junior, ran the offense and had to adjust further when 6-foot-1 center Amena Brent encountered early foul trouble. Her driving finger roll four minutes into the game awoke her team and put it up 7-3. A 25-17 halftime lead wasn't satisfactory to her though, and the Vikings held Sandburg to one field goal in the third quarter.
"The second half, we got much better control of the game," Parker said. "We kept our lead.
"Communication was the key because it was very loud out there. We had to work together to communicate."
The usual 2-guard added seven rebounds and inspired confidence in teammates such as Norris and reserve Danielle Woolfolk, a 5-2 guard who had 11 points off the bench, including a putback amid many taller players and a driving spin to the basket.
"She did a nice job when she was out there," H-F coach Dana Noble said of Woolfolk.
Although no other front-court players put up double figures, third-seeded H-F limited Sandburg to very few looks inside, especially with Norris patrolling the paint. The 10th-seeded Eagles hit seven 3-pointers but were 13-for-45 overall from the field.
"The post did a great job in our 2-3," Noble said. "Our guards did a good job getting through their screens and speed. They play tough half-court man-to-man."