Marist’s success during the season had been contingent on consistent shooting, defensive pressure and scoring points off turnovers.
The Redhawks put all three of those concepts to good use in Wednesday night’s Hinsdale South Regional semifinal game, after falling behind 18-3 early in the first quarter to the host Hornets. The Redhawks went on a 9-2 run in the final two minutes to cut the lead to 20-12 and a 12-2 run to start the second quarter before Hornets coach Vince Doran called a timeout.
Redhawks guard Lexus Williams led the charge during Marist’s 21-point stretch, scoring seven of the team’s points. On defense, Williams and guards L.J. McIntosh and Paul Simmons forced seven first-half steals against the Hornets guards by playing man-to-man defense in the backcourt and aggressive 2-3 zone defense in the frontcourt.
“We wanted to put some pressure on them early, speed ’em up a little and make them play our tempo,” Redhawks coach Gene Nolan said.
However, the Hornets were able to adapt and went to a more transition-style offense to break the Marist defense. In the final 3½ minutes of the second quarter, the Hornets went on a 14-1 run against the Redhawks and turned a 30-23 deficit into a 37-31 lead by halftime. The Redhawks, who’d shot so well to get back into the game and take the lead, went cold from the field.
The cold streak continued in the third quarter, and Hinsdale South guard Phil George took charge, scoring 12 of his team’s 19 points in the frame. The Redhawks shot 2-of-14 as a team in the quarter, sinking any hopes of another major comeback.
The host Hornets claimed a convincing 76-55 victory to advance to the regional championship game against Simeon.
“Hinsdale South played very, very well,” Nolan said. “They handled and executed any pressure we were able to give them.”
The Redhawks, who finished the season 19-11, will graduate only three seniors on this current team. They have plenty of experience to build on for next season, led by Williams, a junior; McIntosh, a sophomore; and big man Nic Weishar, a freshman.
“We could not be prouder of this team and what they accomplished here tonight,” Nolan said.
Stats Pack: The Redhawks struggled on the glass against the taller Hornets, and it showed on the stat sheet. The Hornets outrebounded the Redhawks 34-22.
Play of the Night: Hornets center Brock Benson made a leaping layup off a high inbounds pass intended for him to give the Hornets a 60-43 lead early in the fourth quarter. He also drew a foul on the play, but missed the free throw.
The Other Regional Semifinal Game: Before the Redhawks and Hornets took the court, Simeon torched Urban Prep 90-34 in the early game to advance to the regional final.