Vikings beating the odds

Andrew Hale, Sports Writer

The H-F girls varsity basketball team has a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. After finishing with a 22-4 record and winning the 2020 SWSC Conference Championship, the Vikings are the #2 seed heading into the Stagg sectional bracket.

The Vikings had to play with a one-and-done mentality with all of the adversity they had to deal with. One loss will end the season, and without junior forward Grace Hall, the intensity and pressure has surely increased.

“The loss of Grace is sad, but we use it as motivation to step up because you never know when it will be your last time playing with your teammates,” senior Tia Morgan said.

That motivation has propelled the Vikings to three straight playoff wins. Their defense proved to be key in their first playoff game against Eisenhower on Feb. 18. With a strong all-around performance by the team as a whole, the Vikings ended up defeating the Cardinals 54-13.

H-F continued their success on Feb. 20 when they defeated Lincoln-Way Central 43-30 in the regional final.

Though Hall is injured, she is still making her mark and contributing to the team. She is still learning to embrace this role by helping out with drills at practices.

“I’m just trying to be there, be supportive, moral support, give advice help out in ways I can without being on the court,” Hall said. 

The Vikings are still chasing the ultimate goal of a championship. H-F can’t rely solely on one player but as a team to be successful, that goes for the coaching staff as well.

“We are going to try and play harder and smarter, we have to come out and play and let it loose,” Head Coach Anthony Smith said. “This is a chance for other players to make a name for themselves just as Grace did.”

Throughout the playoffs, teams that advance typically play two games in the span of three days, so the Vikings must prepare for each game quickly. One mistake or mishap could easily result in the end of the season, but Smith still wants his player to have fun. 

“We are going to come in and put in the time,” Smith said. “We are going to also keep loose and enjoy ourselves as well, the biggest part is to just have fun.”

Going into the playoffs the Vikings must have a cool, calm and collective mindset.

“I’m just trying to be positive and get better everyday,” Morgan said. “I can’t let one shot dictate how the rest of my game is going to be, I have to keep shooting and continue to be aggressive offensive and defensively.”

To be efficient throughout the playoffs the Vikings must limit turnovers, be successful on the offensive side of the ball and make free throws. 

“We have been focused on trying to make good decisions and making easy shots, that’s the most important thing,” Smith said. “We know defense is a calling card for us, so we must make sure to make easy shots and free throws.”

After losing to the state runner-up Mother McAuley in the sectional championship last year, the Vikings got revenge against the Mighty Macs in the sectional semifinal with a 54-45 win on Monday. Senior Imani Mitchell led the way with a 17 point performance.

The Vikings dug deep to get back to the sectional championship against top-seeded Marist on Feb. 27 with a trip to the super-sectional on the line.