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Girls Basketball: Hillcrest shades Sandburg

Sandburg's JuliRuzevich powers her way basket against Hillcrest during 35th annual Hillcrest Holiday Classic Hillcrest Thursday December 26th 2013 Country

Sandburg's Julia Ruzevich powers her way to the basket against Hillcrest during the 35th annual Hillcrest Holiday Classic at Hillcrest, Thursday, December 26th, 2013, in Country Club Hills. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 28, 2014 6:31AM



Shayla Joyner was pretty sure what she wanted to do.

Tierra Sanders was ready for anything.

Together, they combined for one of the biggest plays of the day Thursday at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic, as the host Hawks topped Sandburg 66-65 in a second-round thriller.

Joyner, on the dribble, split two Sandburg defenders with a pass to Sanders under the basket. The center didn’t miss with the layup with two seconds remaining that lifted Hillcrest to 9-3 overall and 2-0 on the day.

Tanzania Sherrill led the way for the Hawks with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Aliah Acker added 12 points, Sherrise Heady 10 points and Joyner eight points.

Sandburg (9-5) was led by Sam Youngwirth (20 points), Jessica Merino (14 points) and Victoria Stavropoulos (10 points, 10 rebounds).

The game-winning play evolved from a Hillcrest possession that began with 11.1 seconds left. Stavropoulos had just canned two free throws for Sandburg, which rallied from as much as a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Joyner took a pass from Nadika Jackson at midcourt and began her journey toward the paint.

“I just wanted to get the ball to the basket,” Joyner said. “But I saw (Sanders) underneath.”

Sanders was stationed on the left side of the basket, looking out toward Joyner, but ready to look up at the basket.

“I just went with my instincts,” Sanders said. “I saw she had the ball, so she was either going up and I was getting the rebound or she was passing.

“I just had my mind on winning the game, period.”

The victory was the second nailbiter of the day for Hillcrest, which survived a morning opening-round challenge from Seton.

Sandburg also had some morning drama, needing a free throw with no time remaining by Kate Ruzevich to beat T.F. North.

The Eagles’ momentum carried over for a while vs. Hillcrest. They led 15-9 after the first eight minutes, converting inside with Ruzevich and from three-point range by Lauren O’Leary and Youngwirth.

Hillcrest’s pressure defense kicked in in the second quarter, and transition baskets following turnovers began to pile up. Acker, scoreless in the first period, drove the lane with a fury in the second, scoring nine points as the Hawks closed the half with a 15-6 run to lead 37-27.

Sandburg trailed 64-57 with 1:10 remaining when Merino turned a rebound into two fouls shots that began a seven-point game-tying burst.

Joyner and Sanders, however, would weave some last-second magic that, at least for one day, proved wrong the skeptics who didn’t see the Hawks getting past the second round without a loss.

“We’ve been saying that we should just cancel out all of the negativity and all of the comments and keep our heads focused on what we want,” Sanders said.



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