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Homewood-Flossmoor's D'Vonta Jones blocks a lay-in by Joliet West's Brandon McCullum. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Homewood-Flossmoor coach Jim McLaughlin says that 6-5 senior Maurius Hill “plays with his heart.”
Take one look at Hill’s 6-5, 220-pound muscle-bound frame, then picture that athletic mass playing with his heart. That’s what Joliet West ran up against in the final four minutes Friday.
The Tigers led by eight with 4:29 to play, but Hill spearheaded an intense final defensive push that propelled the Vikings to a 56-53 win in Joliet.
“Games like this make you tougher, you have to get tougher playing in a game like that,” Hill said.
Hill finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Rashaan Surles led H-F with 14 points and six rebounds. His two free throws with eight seconds to play sealed the win.
The Vikings are a senior-led team, but still rather inexperienced after those players sat behind a talented group of seniors last season. H-F has also beaten Bloom and Marian Catholic.
“We knew these guys showed potential when they came in as freshmen,” McLaughlin said. “They have so much size and so much length.”
The Vikings outsized Joliet West at every position, but somehow the Tigers outrebounded H-F 41-37.
“If you would have told me before the game that we would outrebound them, I would have thought we won by five or six,” Joliet West coach Luke Yaklich said. “But the turnovers just killed us. That was the story of the game.”
The Tigers (4-1, 0-1 SouthWest Suburban Blue) turned the ball over 20 times and had real difficulty scoring.
Joliet west senior Morris Dunnigan is already in the midst of a resurgent season. He scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed five rebounds. But aside from Dunnigan and three-pointers from Carl Terrell (15 points), the Joliet West offense relied on second-chance points and free throws to score.
“We’re not concerned about our defense,” McLaughlin said. “Our guys play so hard on that end of the floor. It’s a unique group. But we are struggling to put the ball in the hole.”
Tai Odiase, a 6-8 junior, scored 12 off the bench for the Vikings. His slam with 1:32 to play gave H-F (5-0, 1-0) the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter.
“This team plays together,” Hill said. “We get the ball to the hot person. This wasn’t our best game. I really think we can do better.”