Sacred Heart-Griffin boys basketball digs deep for trip to state finals
Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Tim Allen calls it championship grit.
The Cyclones withstood a late comeback by East St. Louis en route to a 60-50 Class 3A supersectional victory at the Bank of Springfield Center on Monday.
SHG, ranked No. 6 in 3A by The Associated Press, already met intense pressure this postseason and prevailed 55-53 in overtime against MacArthur in the sectional final and 63-57 in double-overtime against Lanphier in the regional title game.
This one didn’t need to go past regulation.
“You can’t come here without adversity, and this might have been the best team we’ve seen all year,” Allen said. “And we came out and we played with them.”
The Cyclones (33-3) converted nine of their last 10 free throw attempts to advance to the state semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at the State Farm Center in Champaign against Chicago St. Ignatius, a 50-49 double-overtime winner over Chicago St. Patrick.
SHG previously qualified for the 2020 state finals in 2A, but that was canceled along with the 2021 postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know there were some points when it got a little nerve-wracking but you know, we stayed composed,” SHG junior guard Jake Hamilton said. “We've stayed composed all postseason. You saw it in the Lanphier and MacArthur games, so I think that's one of our strong suits is being able to stay composed when it gets like that.”
‘We had to put it away’
SHG led 43-36 by the end of the third quarter.
East St. Louis senior point guard and Missouri commit Christian Jones’ layup pared that deficit 45-43 with just four minutes remaining in the fourth.
“They keep coming back and they're crazy athletic, and they were making some really tough shots,” SHG junior guard J’veon Bardwell said. “We tried to pack it in and Chris, the D-1 guard, he's coming through still making them. I'm like, 'Oh snap, we've got to do something about that.'”
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Not until Bardwell’s defensive rebound and outlet pass to junior teammate KeShon Singleton finally put away the No. 2 state-ranked Flyers, 54-48 with just over a minute left.
“We had to put it away and we just had to keep fighting,” Singleton said. “They were getting tired, but we were getting tired, too. We had to dig deeper to come out with the win. I'm so proud of this team.”
Bardwell, in particular, shot 6-of-8 at the free throw line to cement the win.
“I've been working on my free throws crazy recently,” Bardwell said. “I've got to get my percentage up, but it definitely showed later in the game and worked in our favor.”
Offense clicks early
Singleton’s putback permanently lifted SHG ahead 6-4 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
The Cyclones rolled to a 14-5 advantage by the end of the first quarter and extended that margin by as much as 25-12 with 4:32 left in the second period.
They showed little trouble scoring inside despite East St. Louis’ formidable length.
“I think our main emphasis was our whole team just getting the ball movement, getting ourselves moving, and we knew that would kind of mess them up defensively,” Hamilton said. “You could see it out there. We got some pretty easy looks.”
Hawkinson totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds. He especially dominated the boards late in the game. SHG won the rebound battle, 36-23.
Bardwell and Singleton added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“That was one of our goals in the beginning and coach Allen wrote it on the board, we had to outrebound them,” Hawkinson said. “They are a big, physical team and we knew that outrebounding them that we had a very good chance to win this game. Especially going into that fourth quarter, you had to dig down deep, box out and get the rebound.”
Junior guard Macaleb Rich led East St. Louis (27-6) with 18 points while Jones had 14.
“We couldn't get over it,” Flyers coach Mark Chambers said. “We couldn't hit the shot when we needed it. For some odd reason the ball rolled off ... all types of stuff. But we just couldn't get over the hump and, it's just their night. We just tip our hats off to them and I wish them well.”
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