Uplift advances to first state semifinal with victory over Hales

SHARE Uplift advances to first state semifinal with victory over Hales
SHARE Uplift advances to first state semifinal with victory over Hales

Jeremy Roscoe struggled with fouls, but never lost his confidence. Spencer Foley missed his first four shots from the field and just shrugged it off. “Me and Roscoe, we have a lot of confidence,” Foley said.

The two Uplift senior stars drilled three consecutive 3-pointers during a game-altering 9-2 run that the insurgent No. 15 Titans utilized for the 67-61 victory over No. 9 Hales in a Class 2A Supersectional at Joliet Central Tuesday night.

In just its eighth year as a varsity program, Uplift (26-5) advances to its first ever state semifinal Friday against Breese Mater Dei in Peoria in the second Class 2A state game. The school with just 300 students is poised to capture its first ever state trophy in basketball.

Johnny Fox scored a game-high 23 points and registered eight rebounds and two blocked shots for the Spartans. Senior sharpshooter Dominic Christian added 16 points. His early 3-point shooting display nearly shot Uplift out of the game in the first quarter.

Atrocious free throw shooting by the Spartans, made just three of 14 in the first half, combined with Uplift coach David Taylor shifting to a 2-3 zone allowed Uplift to play through Roscoe’s foul trouble and seize the 26-25 lead at the break.

A 6-6 wing forward who transferred to Uplift from Northside, Foley scored a team-best 22 points, ripped down nine rebounds and recorded three steals to lead Uplift. After a scoreless first quarter, Foley converted the rare four-point play that altered his fortunes.

He converted three 3-pointers. His nine points at the start of the third quarter fueled a 20-8 Uplift run for a seemingly commanding 46-33 advantage. “I just have a scorer’s mentality,” Foley said. “The coaches give us a lot of freedom to play out there, and you saw that. We came out in that second half just ready to play.”

The fourth quarter explosion marked a volatile stretch as Hales (26-6) nullified the Titans’ run by countering with a 10-2 quarter closing run as the Spartans’ Erion Moore drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key that pulled Hales within 48-43.

Hales stayed hot, scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter and taking its only lead on a baseline drive by Milton Wordlow (six points) with six and a half minutes remaining. Then Roscoe and Foley took control.

Roscoe played through foul trouble the entire game. He picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and was called for his fourth with under four minutes to play in the second quarter. “The fouls took away from my aggression, especially my rebounding,” he said.

He drilled a 3-pointer on the Titans’ opening possession and then never scored again. “They did a good job on me defensively,” Roscoe said. He stepped up and buried a shot from 23 feet, and Foley followed with a baseline 3-pointer of his own.

Roscoe completed the burst with another dagger for a 57-51 Uplift advantage. He fouled out with 2:36 remaining. His ability to stay in the game played a crucial role in Uplift surviving. “It just shows you what kind of player he is that he could stay on the court and not get that fifth foul until late,” Foley said.

Uplift’s top post player, 6-6 Jamaya Wyatt, added nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. His 3-point play put Uplift up 61-56 with 2:25 remaining. Daniel Soetan added nine points and punctuated the victory with a spectacular tomahawk dunk with just over a minute to play. Foley made four of five free throws down the stretch.

Until a year ago the Titans had never won a regional championship. Uplift finished third in the city tournament. The Titans also received a huge spark from the dynamic play of athletic wing sophomore guard Demarius Jacobs, who scored 13 points in just his sixth game on varsity. “He’s our future,” Taylor said.

Right now, Uplift is celebrating the present.

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