Boys Basketball: Hales has too much for Leo
By Patrick Z. McGavin For Sun-Times Media March 7, 2014 10:54PM
Updated: April 10, 2014 6:42AM
Joseph Larry is going to remember the championship of the Class 2A Robeson Sectional for a long time.
The dynamic Hales guard made two shots that changed the complexity of the game and put the Spartans in a comfort zone.
Larry’s three-pointer from the right wing with 6:43 marked the game’s fifth and final lead change. Larry scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter as Hales rallied from a double-digit deficit to outlast Leo 68-57 on Friday night.
Hales (19-12) advances to Tuesday’s Joliet Central Supersectional after winning its first sectional crown since the 2011 Class 2A state championship team.
“The game was going back and forth, and my teammates kept pushing me to step up and take a shot,” Larry said of his three-pointer.
Larry scored 14 points in the second half to rally the Spartans from a fired-up Leo team that came out shooting.
“You can forget the rivalry and know that this was a championship game,” Hales coach Gary London said. “We knew their guards were good, and they came out and played championship-caliber basketball against us.”
Leo’s superb sophomore tandem of explosive scorer Darius Branch and Kewan Smith (14 points) pushed the Lions (14-14) to a 29-18 lead with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Branch scored nine points in the first half.
Larry hit a leaner to close out the first half as Hales went on a 10-2 surge to pull to within 31-28 at the break. “We made some changes defensively, and we just started to get some stops,” Larry said.
A wild third quarter saw three lead changes and an electric atmosphere as both teams girded for the pivotal fourth quarter.
“Our inexperience and youth really hurt us in the fourth quarter,” Leo coach Noah Cannon said.
Missed free throws and 10 turnovers doomed the Lions (14-14). Down 45-43, Hales maintained its composure and went up for good at 49-48 on Larry’s three-pointer.
“Joe’s shot was big, it completely changed the momentum for us,” London said.
Leo made just 2-of-9 free throws in the second half, and shot a disastrous 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter. At the same time, Larry was a perfect 8-of-8 as Hales converted 16-of-20.
“We thought with our size and depth we could wear them out, because we have to be able to create points off turnovers,” London said.
After torching Carver for 28 points in the sectional semifinal, Branch was limited to just 11 points, just two after the break, for the Lions.