Ahead of the pack

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Ahead of the pack

Joe Sullivan, Sports Writer

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The H-F girls basketball team is first in the SWSC blue division along with having a 19-4 record this season.

Being the ninth ranked team in the state, the girls have convinced everyone that they’re a state contender with wins against teams like Bolingbrook, beating Simeon at Wintrust Arena and winning the championship at the Hillcrest invite.

Three of the team’s four losses have been to top-10 teams in Illinois. Their fourth loss was in Michigan against a solid Detroit Edison team.

Last year, the girls made an unexpected run in the postseason getting all the way to the sectional championship before losing by one point to the eventual state runner-up, Mother McAuley.

Head Coach Anthony Smith has been the H-F girls coach for seven years and has posted a 123-48 record. He understands that going on a deeper playoff run than last year won’t be easy.

“Last year we were the underdogs. No one expected us to make it to the sectional final. This year everyone wants to beat us,” Smith said.

With a lot of returning players from last year, the team is on a new mission. Junior forward Grace Hall was a big factor to last year’s success as a sophomore, playing well night in and night out.

Hall played summer ball for Example Sports Elite who competed in the Under Armour AAU Circuit this past summer. Hall picked up her first offer from the University of Illinois in November of her freshman year.

“The recruiting process has been a lot so far having to talk to coaches and all, but it comes with perks,” Hall said. 

Hall is a top-50 player in the country for the 2021 class and has racked up over 40 offers. Schools like DePaul, Iowa and Kentucky have been heavily recruiting her since the Spring of 2019.

Hall isn’t the only one getting national recognition. A few weeks ago, seniors Tia Morgan, Bradley commit Isis Fitch and Imani Mitchell were named Illinois nominees for the McDonald’s All American game. Morgan has done it all this year for the Vikings and is looking to continue that success in the postseason this year.

“A lot of people don’t know all the work, late nights, early mornings, blood, sweat and tears that comes with this,” Morgan said. “Being an Illinois nominee for the All-American game makes me want to prove to myself that I’m one of the top players not only in the state but the country.”

With two games left in the regular season, the girls look to end on win streak and focus on the road to Normal. Look for players like freshman Alyssa Latham, who has gotten a lot of quality minutes, and Mitchell, who is back from her torn ACL last year, to make a big impact this postseason.

“Coming into this year our goal is to get everything out of our team this year. Now we want to make a run through the playoffs,” Smith said.

Smith wants the girls to take it game by game, but the girls already have their eye on the prize. 

“Right now we are number one in the conference and we want to remain there,’’ Morgan said. “State is the ultimate goal. I want a ring, and I’m determined to get it.”

The team plays their last two games at Sandburg and Bolingbrook before they start Regionals on Feb. 17.