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Rumors of a changing of the guard in the South Suburban might be a bit premature.
Hillcrest played like a team not ready to step away from the throne, especially during the second period, in a 64-47 Blue division victory Thursday over Oak Lawn.
The Hawks did it with quickness, rebounding, pressure on defense and maybe just a little bit of irritation at not being considered a “classic” Hillcrest team.
“It doesn’t matter who is on our team,” Joshulyn Shepherd said. “If everybody plays up to their potential we can all play together and be good and be the better team.
“We were the better team tonight because we did what was expected of us. We did it the Hillcrest way, being smart and playing right.”
The balanced Hawks (11-4, 5-0) featured Shepherd (15 points), Nadika Jackson (15 points, 11 rebounds), Aliah Acker (14 points), Tierra Sanders (12 points, 17 rebounds) and Shayla Joyner (eight points, 11 rebounds).
LaTondra Brooks basically was a one-girl show for Oak Lawn (13-1, 3-1), scoring 28 points. Brianna Markusic was the next highest scorer for the Spartans with seven.
The game was essentially decided in the second quarter. Hillcrest led just 13-9 going into it, but Acker led a Hillcrest surge that left the Hawks in front at the half, 34-15.
The 5- 2 Acker hit for a pair of threes and drove the lane against Oak Lawn’s taller front line for three lay-ins.
“I decided to play hard and attack the basket,” Acker said. “People said Oak Lawn was a good team, so we figured we had to come out here and play hard and aggressive both on offense and defensively.”
The Hawks not only dominated the Spartans on the scoreboard, but under the basket, with a 51-33 advantage in rebounds thanks mostly to Sanders, Joyner and Jackson.
Oak Lawn’s most impressive stretch may have been the start of the third period, in which the Spartans went on a 7-0 run to get within 34-22.
The reeling Hawks were brought back to life by Jackson, who drained a three-pointer. Hillcrest built as high as a 21-point lead.
“Our whole year has been controlling the boards, scoring in transition, playing defense and getting into the passing lanes and we didn’t do any of that tonight,” Oak Lawn coach Janet Meyers said. “We gave up so many second shots, didn’t box out. We weren’t aggressive with the ball, aggressive toward the basket and it showed.
“Hillcrest was the better team tonight. They out hustled us, they outplayed us.”