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March 1, 2010


Hillcrest 55, Richwoods 47
Every team seems to have a nemesis, or an obstacle in which they have difficulty getting over. The Bulls had Detroit; the Bears had Green Bay; the White Sox had Boston/New York; and well, the Cubs have everybody including a goat. For south suburban school, Hillcrest, they had Fenwick (2001); Marian Catholic (2002) and Peoria-Richwoods (2009), who beat them at the supers' last years.
But in most successful programs, they find a way to surpass these obstacles, and as of Monday night, Hillcrests' nemesis were no more, as they punch their ticket to sit at the BIG table downstate with a victory over defending 3A champion Peoria Richwoods 55-47.


It has been well-documented that coach Maniatis has won over 380 games across 15 seasons (as season 16 is still being written), but, has not been down downstate.


"There are great stories within the four walls (of Hillcrest), and this is a great story for those kids," Maniatis said. "I'm just part of the byline. But we are finally at the dance."

On Monday night, ALL dreams have become a reality.


Hillcrest senior Uniquah Hampton has been dreaming of this moment since she was in the seventh grade along with teammate, Kristin Marshall. "I guess we've both got our dreams now," said Hampton after the game. "I'm proud that we're the team that gets to bring him downstate."

Richwoods didn't punch Hillcrests' ticket for them without a fight. They went into the half with a 3-point lead, 27-24, by slowing the pace of the game to fit their style and use a 1-3-1 zone, which caused the Lady Hawks offense to sputter.


"It was the reversal of last year," coach John Maniatis said. "We were up 24-21. We told the kids, 'We have 16 minutes. It's about choices. What choices do we want to make out there that will help us get to where we want to be?' "

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In the second half, the Lady Hawks turned to their defense and speed to energize their offense, as 5'2" Samirah Ali played another BIG game, defensively, sparking a 10-0 run and a lead for as much as 10, 39-29 at the 3:18 mark of the game.


"Our defense brought our offense," Hampton said. "We got steals, and we finished."


Richwoods tried to prepare for the Lady Hawks speed by practicing 8 players against their starters, but they just couldn't keep up. They were able to put together a late run of their own knocking down six straight and tying the game in the fourth at 39.


The Lady Hawks then turned to senior Jacquenae Foster, who knocked down a needed 3-pointer, which ignited the offense. The other players began knocking down shots: Yolanda De La Torre was able to grab a rebound and put back a quick shot for a score; Autris Coleman came off the bench to connect on a pair of free throws; and Shannise Heady was able to knock down a couple of shots.  At this time, they were able to outscore the Knights' 12-3, which put the game out of reach.

After the game, DePaul-recruit Uniquah Hampton was  asked if she was ever worried during the game? "No," she replied with a big smile. "We wouldn't let it go. I was still confident. No worries, no doubts."

Hampton led the Lady Hawks with 13, followed by
Samirah Ali who added 8 points but snagged 7 steals. On the other side of the ball, Richwoods was led by  junior Mariah Smith, who knocked down 13, followed by  senior Katie Murphy who added 12.


Coach Maniatis did leave the gym and all of the celebration with something else on his mind... he was concerned about Marshall's left knee. She collided with Maggie Cunningham in the first half, but would return. His concerned, more specifically, was about the after-game effects she may experience, such as a 90-minute bus ride home as well as a night's sleep.


"I'm fine," said Marshall after the game. "I was in pain at first but once I got some ice on it it felt better." She also added "I wasn't going to let that keep me out of this game -we came to far for us to stop."


The Lady Hawks will take the court Friday at 12:15 against Oswego in the Class 3A semifinals at Redbird Arena, and we'll be at the baseline.










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