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Homewood-Flossmoor's Rashaan Surles shoots against Curie. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

Basketball is a strange game. Good teams win on merit or by forcing the other team into more mistakes. Sometimes it is unexplainable.

By most objective standards Homewood-Flossmoor had every reason to fail against Curie. The Vikings closed the game by missing three consecutive one-and-one opportunities. They scored only two points in the final 5:33. Time and again Curie failed to take advantage.

Senior forward Maurius Hill scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the No. 4 Vikings remained unbeaten with a 42-40 victory over the Condors in the marquee game of the Team Rose Shootout at the Kroc Center Sunday night.

“We got lucky at the end,” Homewood-Flossmoor coach Jim McLaughlin said.

Curie junior 6-9 star center Cliff Alexander watched his layup attempt dance around the rim and fall out.

Curie forward Sharieff Medlock’s tip also bounded off the front of the rim as time expired.

With Michigan State coach Tom Izzo looking on, Alexander nearly recorded a triple double with nine points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots. It went for naught as the Condors (0-3) remained winless.

Alexander also missed two crucial free throws. “I think a lot of that was fatigue because we don’t usually miss free throws,” he said.

The momentum changed late in the third quarter that featured one tie and four lead changes.

Senior guard Rashaan Surles and Hill combined for eight points during a 10-1 run that extended into the fourth quarter that turned a three-point Curie lead into a 40-34 Homewood-Flossmoor lead.

“We saw that they were in not as good as conditioning as we were and we could take advantage of our press and get out on the break,” said Surles, who finished with 12 points. “I just fed off the energy and intensity of my teammates and I was able to get some baskets in transition and from good movement.”

Hill symbolized the Vikings’ grit and toughness.

“He’s been our leader since preseason conditioning,” McLaughlin said. “This is a very unique team, and I like the way we play and compete. Curie’s a great team, and Cliff Alexander is a monster back there and he’s a big reason why we struggled in our halfcourt game.

“Marius was giving up three or four inches, but he just battled.”

“We doubled Alexander as son as possible,” Hill said. “He’s so strong, you have to fight him off the block and not let him get the ball inside.”

Hill scored inside for a 42-36 Vikings’ lead with just under three minutes to play. The rest of the game was a war of attrition.

Homewood-Flossmoor (7-0) failed to deliver the knockout blow though a tired and exhausted Curie struggled at its own end with turnovers and failed chances.

“It didn’t help that our point guard [senior Demarcus Richardson] fouled out and we didn’t get back on defense a couple of times,” Alexander said.

Marcellus Davis scored 12 points for the Condors. Kamar Marshall hit a key three-pointer to pull the Condors within one possession. Curie missed four out of six free throws in the quarter.

"We’re going to be all right,” Alexander said. “We come back to conference Tuesday and we’re going to come out strong.”

“It’s a good win and we’ll use it as a learning experience moving into the next phase of our season,” McLaughlin said.

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