Hyde Park senior Davontae Hall was all flash, style and speed as a young high school player. His talent was undeniable, but so many kids never find a way to evolve into a mature, focused and truly effective player.
Hall’s debut as a senior Monday was memorable. All the danger has left his game. He’s poised and unselfish, and his teammates have followed his lead.
The No. 24 Thunderbirds beat Homewood-Flossmoor 77-68 in the Chicago Heights Classic at Marian Catholic.
‘‘I’ve just been staying in the gym,’’ Hall said. ‘‘There’s no secret to what happened. It’s just working. I wanted to become a better teammate and a better leader.’’
Jamere Dismukes, a Rich East graduate, took over as Hyde Park’s coach last season.
‘‘I’ve been trying to point [Hall] in the right direction of what a point guard needs to be,’’ Dismukes said. ‘‘He has aspirations to play high-major basketball. I broke down to him what he needed to do to achieve that dream. He’s doing a great job of it. His game has completely changed.’’
Hyde Park junior Damarion Morris made his first five shots and his first four three-pointers. The early hot shooting helped the Thunderbirds build a 42-27 halftime lead.
‘‘It felt good playing my first game after the COVID season,’’ Morris said. ‘‘I just wanted to do what I had to do for us to get a win.’’
Morris scored a game-high 24 points and Hall 19. Malik Jenkins, a 6-6 senior, added 15 points, and junior guard Camron Williford scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Homewood-Flossmoor switched to a full-court press in the second half. It forced the Thunderbirds into turnovers and cut their lead to 56-50 near the end of the third quarter.
But Hyde Park showed its backbone in the fourth quarter, adjusting to the press and making 8 of 9 free throws to regain a double-digit lead.
‘‘Morris is very underrated,’’ Dismukes said. ‘‘He does everything. He can shoot it, he can finish around the rim and rebound and make plays for others and he guards 94 feet the entire game. That’s an impressive game against a really good H-F team that always guards.’’
Vikings senior Christian Meeks dominated inside, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s guards are talented but inexperienced. There’s plenty for Vikings coach Marc Condotti to work with during the next few months.
‘‘Hyde Park played really good,’’ Condotti said. ‘‘They shot the ball well and made free throws and did everything they were supposed to do to win the game. We don’t have a ton of experience, so it’s no easy task to open up against them.’’
Sophomore Lee Marks added 13 points and five rebounds, senior Robert Brazelton chipped in 11 points off the bench and senior Luis Acevedo had nine points and nine rebounds for the Vikings.
‘‘We got the answers to our questions right away about what we need to work on,’’ Condotti said. ‘‘We’ll be a different team, hopefully, in March. We just have to get some experience. We could be pretty good.’’
The Thunderbirds have a chance to be the first Public League team to win the 17-year-old Chicago Heights Classic. And they have even bigger goals than that for their season.
‘‘We have a chip on our shoulder,’’ Morris said. ‘‘We are the hunted now. We want to win every game we can and get to that No. 1 spot.’’
Watch the final minute of Hyde Park vs. Homewood-Flossmoor: