December 27, 2013 || Patrick Z. McGavin (Sun-Times Media)
Basketball is the most unpredictable of games. The frequency of possessions only intensifies the randomness of chance.
Homewood-Flossmoor had chances to pull the upset Friday of Proviso East to advance to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament quarterfinals.
Homewood-Flossmoor played with toughness and purpose against the quick and athletic Pirates, but the Vikings missed 19 free throws and failed to make the plays down the stretch in the 43-40 second-round loss in Hillside.
“We’re normally a good free-throw shooting team,” Vikings coach Jim McLaughlin said of his team’s 10-of-29 performance. “(Friday) there was just a lid on the rim.”
Proviso East’s Jevon Carter hit two crucial three-pointers and scored eight of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Center Tai Odiase shouldered the load offensively for the Vikings and posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Time and again in the second half, he brought the Vikings back from the brink. The UIC recruit was the only Homewood-Flossmoor player to score from the field in the second half.
The Vikings (6-4) shook off a slow start and rode the strong play of Odiase and Destin Barnes (9 points, 10 rebounds) to lead by as many as six points in the first half. Consecutive turnovers led to Proviso East breakaways that narrowed the Vikings’ margin to 25-23 at the break.
“We were trying to run our offense and spread the lead out to eight, 10 points and we just had two horrible possessions there. Suddenly, instead of up six, we’re up just two,” McLaughlin said.
The swing foretold the struggles of the third quarter. Homewood-Flossmoor missed 12-of-13 field-goal attempts in scoring just two points, an Odiase dunk, in the period. Proviso East shot just 2-of-9 in the quarter and led by two.
Carter’s three-point shooting put the Pirates up 33-27 but Odiase scored six unanswered points on strong post moves to forge the final tie at 33. Proviso East’s Antonio Williams (11 points) scored on a putback with 4:18 remaining for a 35-33 Pirates lead.
Carter’s second three-pointer extended the margin to 40-34.
Odiase responded with a three-point play, his only made free throw of the game, that pulled the Vikings to within three.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Davon Smith had a chance to forge a tie after he was fouled on a three-point attempt with the Vikings down 41-38 with 20 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw.
The Vikings had a final chance to tie when trailing 42-40 but Williams stole the ball with five seconds remaining. He split two free throws, and Smith’s desperation three-pointer hit off the back of the rim.
McLaughlin saw positives.
“I really liked the way we competed and fought hard,” he said. “The whole reason of being in this tournament is playing against other great competition. That sixth-place trophy is still out there for us. That’s something we’re going to play for.” VFP