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Sandburg coach Todd Allen told his team before Wednesday’s regional semifinal against Homewood-Flossmoor that “if they played the Vikings 10 times, they’d probably lose seven, eight, maybe nine times. But we won’t be playing them 10 times, we’re playing one game. You’ve got to believe.”
Sandburg heeded those words of advice and stunned No. 14 H-F 71-68 to advance to Friday’s Sandburg Regional final.
The Eagles, a No. 18 seed, will play the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Stagg and Andrew.
“Coach did a great job of getting us prepared,” said Sandburg forward Malek Harris, who led the Eagles with 17 points. “He told us you got to believe. This is the best feeling in the world.”
The Vikings had crushed Sandburg in two earlier meetings, 52-36 on Feb. 15 and 69-54 on Jan. 11.
The third time, however, proved to be a charm for Sandburg (10-17).
H-F (21-6) led by as many as eight in the first half. The Eagles cut the gap to 29-26 before settling for a five-point deficit (31-26) at the break.
“Balanced scoring is why we were in the game in the first half,” Allen said. “How other guys stepped up was what was going to dictate this game.”
Senior Murad Elayyan stepped up with his biggest game of the season. His first three-pointer of the game early in the fourth quarter gave Sandburg its first lead of the game at 41-39. His second trey, with 5:09 to go, upped the Eagles advantage to 46-43.
“I haven’t been shooting well all year,” said Elayyan, who ended with 12 points. “I was feeling it tonight.”
The Eagles converted 21-of-28 free throws in the fourth quarter and 27-of-35 for the game. Niko Cahue added 16 points for the Eagles, while Niko Kogionis and Tim Pendergast had nine each and Alec Martinez eight.
Maurius Hill led H-F with 31 points and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey added 11.