When Homewood-Flossmoor was upset by Sandburg last year in the regional semifinal in Orland Park, it marked the end of a nine-year streak in which the Vikings won regional titles.
Thisseason’s squad was hoping to return to form but was recently investigated by the IHSA for violations. The school of thought was that the Vikings could suffer a similar fate as its girls basketball team, which was disqualified from postseason play and had all of its regular-season victories vacated.
But on Feb. 25 the boys team was given probation by the IHSA and allowed the Vikings to get back to the business of trying to win postseason hardware again.
That quest started Wednesday night as the sixth-seeded Vikings beat 12th-seeded Lincoln-Way Central 57-37 at the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Regional in New Lenox. The Vikings (15-13) challenge third-seeded Thornton (20-5) in the regional title game at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It’s been a very interesting season for us top to bottom this season,” Vikings coach Jim McLaughlin said “We went to overtime four times and lost a whole bunch of games by two or three points. Of course we had the episode a couple of weeks ago. Our guys have survived all the drama and all the craziness that surrounded the school at this particular point in time.”
n the middle of the recent controversy, UIC-bound Tai Odiase suffered a near-broken nose and missed a couple of games. Odiase, who wore a mask for a pair of games and is now playing mask-free, scored 20 points including a pair of monster dunks in the final minute Wednesday night.
“I felt good tonight,” he said. “When I missed time with the nose injury, it was an all-time low but I knew I would get back on the court soon.”
H-F had an 11-4 first-quarter lead and Central tied the score at 17-17 with 4:22 left in the half. The Knights seemed to have the momentum at that point, but they failed to score for close to 10 minutes while Vikings took a commanding 36-17 lead.
“We keyed on [Alex] Parks and [Brad] Bass,’’ McLaughlin said. “We played off the other guys and gave them our full attention.”
Dorian McCraney came off the bench and scored 13 points for the Vikings. Destin Barnes, who left the game in the first half with a bloody nose, came back in the second half and led the team with eight rebounds.
Bass had 13 points and Parks added nine.
The Knights finished 14-14, the first time they had a .500 or better season since going 14-12 in 2003-2004.