There are two excellent cliches available to describe Homewood-Flossmoor’s 64-61 overtime win against Bloom in the Class 4A Eisenhower sectional semifinals on Tuesday in Blue Island.
The Blazing Trojans had already beaten the Vikings twice this season. That brings up the “it’s hard to beat a good team three times” cliche.
Bloom, one of the area’s most-hyped teams, is young. Its key players are all juniors, while Homewood-Flossmoor (24-8) has a strong senior core and seniors beat underclassmen in the playoffs. Vikings coach Marc Condotti is a believer in that cliche.
“We talked about it before the game,” Condotti said. “The guys in that locker room have next year. The guys in this locker room don’t. When you are playing for the season it is one thing. When you are playing for your career it is another thing.”
Maybe that is what got into H-F’s Issac Stanback. The 6-4 senior was everywhere. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds and seemed to make every possession difficult for Bloom in some way.
“They played physical, they played hard,” Bloom coach Dante Maddox Sr. said. “You have to give them credit.”
The teams put on a show in the first half, both drained shots and gave the crowd a taste of high-level high school basketball. In the third quarter that changed. H-F started using its athletic bulk for advantages and switched to a zone defense that completely mystified the Blazing Trojans.
“They expected us to play man,” Stanback said. “We mixed it up and had their heads on a swivel, kept them thinking. They are young.”
Bloom (26-4) led 36-35 at halftime. The Vikings led 53-50 after three quarters. Things really became a struggle for the Blazing Trojans at that point. Dante Maddox Jr. was the only player to score a basket for Bloom in the fourth quarter and the team didn’t score a bucket in overtime, only managing one free throw.
“The right move was to come out and play a man [defense] and they scored 24 points on plan A so we went to plan B,” Condotti said.
Junior RJ Ogom led H-F with 21 points and seven rebounds. Very few players in the state have his combination of size, strength and athleticism.
“RJ always gets up for Bloom, he’s friends with a lot of those guys,” Condotti said. “We have really been working with him. With his size he should be burying people. He gets mad, he gets sick of getting pushed around and he finally starts pushing back.”
Maddox Jr. led Bloom with 25 points and six rebounds. Keshawn Williams scored nine and Donovan Newby added 13 points.
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation. Williams missed a jumper for Bloom and then H-F threw an interception on the inbounds as time expired.
Bloom had a chance to tie before the overtime buzzer but Scott, a talented wide receiver on the football team, leaped up and grabbed the inbounds pass just past half court to seal the upset win for the Vikings.
“This means a lot,” Stanback said. “It was tough when we lost to them in the beginning of the season. We matured and we grew up.”
Scott finished with 10 points for H-F and Trace Williams added five points off the bench and grabbed a clutch rebound in overtime.
The Vikings will face the winner of Wednesday’s Simeon vs. Marian Catholic semifinal in the sectional final at Eisenhower on Friday.