For 2½ quarters of his team’s battle with Hillcrest, it seemed Tuesday night’s homecoming might be a happy one for Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel.

Then he watched his former team explode.

Hillcrest, down as many as seven points in the third quarter, used an 18-2 run over 2 minutes, 48 seconds late in the third to pull away for good in an 84-66 win in Country Club Hills.

Jovan Mooring (26 points, 8 rebounds) scored six points and Devin Harrison (12 points, 6 rebounds) five during the surge that saw the Hawks (16-5) hit a pair of three-pointers and convert two three-point plays, taking a 60-47 lead.

“We turned up our intensity a lot,” Mooring said. “The first half we were off-balance. I knew I had to be a leader and if I picked it up, the team would follow.”

It was the first time Cappel coached at Hillcrest since leaving in 2007. He spent 23 years at the helm of the Hawks, going 504-146. The two teams met last season in Crete, with Hillcrest prevailing.

“It didn’t feel different during the game,” he said. “But before the game, it definitely did, seeing all the people. I have a lot of good memories in this gym. This wasn’t one of them.”

Though Hillcrest coach Don Houston, formerly an assistant under Cappel, said the Hawks “put no emphasis” on Cappel’s return, Mooring said it provided motivation.

“It’s definitely kind of a rivalry game,” he said. “Whenever two coaches who coached the same school go head to head, it’s a big game.”

The Warriors (14-7), who received 18 points each from Mark Conner and Tyler Williams (12 rebounds), used a 9-0 run that included a pair of thunderous dunks from Conner and Laquon Treadwell (12 points) to take a 35-30 halftime lead.

The Hawks, though, couldn’t be stopped in the second half, going 19-of-33 from the field.

Sophomores Taylor Adway (17 points, 9 rebounds) and DeAngelo Isby (11 points) had big games for Hillcrest.