FLOSSMOOR | They'd won their other seven games against in-state competition by an average of 46.7 points per. They'd seen no fellow IHSA member finish within 25 points of them at the final buzzer.
So what did the Times No. 1 Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings feel Tuesday, when they looked up at the scoreboard and saw themselves trailing Lincoln-Way East 28-26 at the 2:59 mark of the second quarter?
"It's frustrating," junior forward Faith Suggs said. "We're not really used to being challenged."
The Vikings (14-2, 7-0) rallied to post a 63-50 SouthWest Suburban Blue win over the Griffins. Suggs scored two quick buckets to erase that 28-26 deficit and post eight of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Griffins (13-4, 4-2) were led by Kara Krolicki's 25 points.
Krolicki made her first six field goal attempts in the first half and then missed five straight shots before hitting four more in a row. Her evening was mirrored by her teammates, as the Griffins combined to make 10-of-15 shots en route to a 28-26 lead, miss 13 of their next 16 through the third quarter, then make 5-of-8 in the final period.
"Give them credit," Vikings coach Tony Smith said. "Defensively, we just gambled. We turned them over some, but when we didn't turn them over, they got open looks and they knocked them down. They made some tough shots, too."
Krolicki hit three 3-pointers and Claire McMahon (11 points) in East's early success. The Vikings, meanwhile, struggled against the Griffins' zone, shooting just 23-of-64 (.359) from the field.
What was arguably H-F's worst in-state effort of the season came just a week after the parent of a player filed a lawsuit against the school claiming Smith illegally recruited six players to this year's squad. Smith, though, saw no impact of the off-the-court drama on his team.
"Our focus has been good," he said.
Rather, Smith credited East.
"We have to do a better job with patience," he said. "They packed it in, and we wanted to shoot the first shot — even if it wasn't always the best shot."
The Vikings expect to see a steady diet of zone moving forward.
"Definitely," Suggs said. "It's something we're going to have to improve at. We should have made them come out and get us.
"Once we relaxed and the defense started getting stops, it helped with the offense."
The Vikings forced 18 turnovers in the second half, double what they managed in the first half. Harried into 1-of-9 shooting, East scored just four points in the third quarter, while H-F reserve Nadia Green scored five of her team's 10 points in the period on her way to 11 for the game.
"My role is to attack the basket and play defense," she said. "I just try to do my job when I'm on the court."