HARVEY | Malcolm Grady is not Homewood-Flossmoor's star, but the junior forward was hard to miss Wednesday in the sixth-seeded Vikings' 71-62 upset over No. 2 Thornwood in the Class 4A Thornton Sectional semifinals.
"Yeah, he was probably the 'X' factor tonight," Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. "What did he have – 12, 14 points?"
He had 25, a career high, on 11-of-14 shooting. And he came off the bench to do it.
Grady led H-F (17-11) to the 7 p.m. Friday title game against Marian Catholic (27-2).
The Vikings also got 20 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks from Tai Odiase plus 19 points and seven boards from Destin Barnes.,
Thornwood (24-5), which had a 15-game winning streak snapped, got 15 from Chelby Frazier and 13 each from Donzel Vinson and Kaliph Fagan.
"Nobody had us here," Odiase said. "To be past two teams (Thornton, H-F's regional championship victim, and Thornwood) who were supposed to be here feels really good.
"The key was Malcolm, the spark he gave us. Scoring 25 points off the bench was huge."
Grady played his way out of the starting lineup early in the season.
"The coach thought I was lazy," he said. "I was a little lazy."
Then he practiced his way into the sixth-man role. How?
"Rebounding, making mid-range jump shots and playing defense," he said.
Grady did most of his damage against Thornwood from 10 to 15 feet, knocking down his first four shots, then four more in a row after his first miss. His previous career high was 14, against Joliet West in February.
"He's been kind of plugging along," H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. "He took advantage of some opportunities he got last week; he's in the rotation now. It's nice to see a guy grind it out in the regular season and have it pay off in the playoffs."
Frustrated early by Odiase's dominating inside presence, Thornwood big men Kaliph Fagan and Kenneth Bates went to the bench with foul trouble in the second quarter, freeing Grady to score eight points. He kept the roll going with eight more in the third – though one of his rare misses prefaced H-F's decisive run.
Thornwood trailed by seven points early in the third quarter, but it rallied to tie the game at 48.
Grady and Kendric Pryor missed from in close before Barnes' put-back at the buzzer gave H-F a 50-48 lead heading into the final period.
That kicked off a 16-2 run during which Thornwood went 0-for-11 from the floor, 10 of those from 3-point range.
"You live by the '3,' you die by the '3,'" Slavich said. "That's been our season. … They weren't falling tonight."