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Malcolm Grady couldn’t have selected a better time to have the best game of his high school career.
The Homewood-Flossmoor junior came off the bench Wednesday to score a game-high 25 points, helping the Vikings turn away Thornwood 71-62 in a Class 4A Thornton Sectional semifinal.
H-F (17-11) advances to the sectional championship and a date with rival Marian Catholic (27-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Spartans defeated the Vikings 69-66 on Nov. 27.
“My hat’s off to Malcolm Grady,” H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. “He had the hot hand and was a monster for us.”
The 6-4 Grady had significant help in the form of Tai Odiase and Destin Barnes. The 6-8 Odiase scored 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked four shots. He also altered multiple shot attempts by the Thunderbirds, who finished 22 of 58 from the field.
Barnes scored 19 points, as he, Grady and Odiase combined for 64 of the team’s 71 points.
“Nobody had us here,” said Odiase, referring to the sectional championship. “Nobody had us ranked. The key (Wednesday night) was Malcolm. He scored 25 points off the bench.”
Grady was a starter at the beginning of the season, but a lack of productivity and a decrease in effort put him on the bench. An improved work ethic and performance in the postseason has resulted in an increase in minutes.
“Coach thought I was getting a little lazy and I was feeling a little lazy,” Grady said. “I just kept working hard. Come playoff time, coach told me to step up a little bit.”
Thornwood (24-5) trailed 35-30 at halftime but found its shooting stroke in the third quarter. Two three-pointers by Chelby Frazier (18 points) and a bucket by Rashaad Alexander helped the Thunderbirds tie the game 46-46.
H-F led 50-48 entering the fourth quarter before pulling away. A layup by Grady, a dunk by Odiase and jumper by Barnes highlighted a 9-0 run. Just like that, the Vikings lead was 59-48.
When Kendric Pryor fed Odiase for a perfect alley-oop slam, H-F led 67-53 as Viking fans roared.
“They knocked down some shots on us,” Thornwood coach Paul Slavich said. “I think we settled for quick shots.”
The Thunderbirds lived and died by the three all season. On this night, their inability to knock down the trey — they finished 10 of 35 from beyond the arc — proved to be their undoing. Donzel Vinson and Kaliph Fagan scored 13 points apiece for Thornwood.
H-F was 26-for-51 and didn’t convert a single three on just six attempts. The Vikings worked the ball inside for high-percentage shots and also were able to score in transition.
“Our second group (team) this week was outstanding,” McLaughlin said. “They prepared our first team guys for what we were going to see (Wednesday night).”