Given they've won 24 times in 28 outings, Alan Millender hasn't had many opportunities to see his daughter, Ashton, and her Marian Catholic teammates down this season.
But the elder Millender was floored by the Spartans' reaction Wednesday to the news that Homewood-Flossmoor, the state's top-ranked Class 4A team, was suspended from the playoffs by the Illinois High School Association.
"Oh my God," Millender said. "I've never seen them so disappointed."
The Vikings were the Times' No. 1-ranked team, while Marian, the defending state champs, were No. 2. They could have met in the Bloom Sectional title game on Thursday.
"They were more up to play H-F Feb. 27 than they were (then-defending state champs) Whitney Young in the state semis last year," Millender said.
As it is, the Spartans advanced out of the Sandburg Regional into an 8 p.m. sectional contest today against Lincoln-Way East at Bloom Trail. The winner plays at 7 p.m. Thursday against the winner of today's other semifinal, Marist vs. Oak Lawn.
Marian coach Dan Murray declined to comment on Homewood-Flossmoor. Of Lincoln-Way East (22-5), he had plenty to say.
"We think very highly of them," he said. "They've got some really good shooters. They've got size. They're extremely well-coached. It's going to be a difficult basketball game."
Murray also faces the task of getting his players to forget about their easy, 67-37 win over the Griffins in both teams' season opener on Nov. 19.
Defining the importance of that game as "little to none," Murray added, "Both teams have improved quite a bit. They're playing their best basketball of the year, and we'd like to think we're playing ours."
It might be worth noting that, in their last regular-season game, the Griffins gave H-F fits in what was eventually a 49-42 win. The game was tied with less than five minutes to play.
East is led by Kara Krolicki, a 45 percent 3-point shooter who averages 19.7 points per game. Claire McMahon, a 31 percent 3-point shooter, averages 9.0 points and 3.3 assists per game.
The Spartans are getting most of their offense from Ashton Millender (13.7 ppg) and Teniya Page (12.5 ppg).
"All teams, as the year goes on, get more efficient in their offensive sets, they run their offense sharper," Murray said. "Obviously, with me being in my first year, there was an adjustment period for us.
"The kids are a lot more confident now with what we're trying to accomplish on the floor."