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In a season that hasn’t produced many highlights or heroes for Hales, the host Spartans had a lot of both during their frenetic 69-65 Class 2A regional championship overtime win over TEAM Englewood.
And they needed every one of them during a game that featured 18 lead changes.
The Spartans (17-12) won their fourth regional title in five years and advanced to the Illiana Christian Sectional where they play Seton, an easy winner its regional title game.
“This was great experience for us and both teams played a great game,” Hales coach Gary London said, after his team withstood two season-ending scenarios. “We didn’t expect nothing less than what [TEAM Englewood] gave us tonight.”
The shot that kept the season alive as time expired in regulation came from Shaquon Alexander with his team down three. Defended heavily, Alexander double-pumped from the top of the key and drained an off-balance three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
“To be honest, I don’t even know how I made it,” Alexander said. “Coach [London] always says, ‘picture your shot going in and it will happen,’ and it happened.”
Alexander finished with 27 points, all during regulation. His teammates took over in overtime when the Spartans fell behind 65-59 with just under two minutes left. Ashton Hilliard scored the first four points for the Eagles (18-8) while teammate Shartone Moore scored the next four.
The 5-10 Hilliard and Moore, both juniors, finished with 26 and 15 points, respectively.
Spartans forwards Eddie Miles and Tim Robertson converted consecutive steals resulting in five points. Robertson converted a three-point play with 1:06 left to give his team the lead for good 67-65. The Eagles went 0-for-3 from the line from that point while Miles connected on two free throws with 30.1 left for the final score.
“We went out swinging, played hard defense and got some big steals,” Alexander said.
“[Hilliard] is a great guard and he is good at recognizing the lanes and strong in the paint.”
Robertson had three of his 21 points in the overtime, while Miles had five of his 12 during that span.
“You’re going to have these kind of games in the playoffs,” London said.