November 20 at Farragut Final score: L 52-44
November 28 at Bogan Final score: W 55-46
December 1 Leo vs. De La Salle Final score: L 71-40
December 5 at St. Laurence Final score: L 65-41
December 8 Leo vs. Brother Rice Final score: L 70-36
December 10 at Hyde Park Final score: L 58-49
December 12 Leo vs. St. Francis Final score: L 53-46
December 15 at St. Rita Final score: W 63-46
December 16 at Christ the King Final score: L 55-38
December 20 Leo vs. Southland College Prep Final score: W 61-49
December 26 at Willowbrook Final score: L 54-51
December 27 at Taft Final score: L 59-57
December 29 at South Shore Final score: W 86-36
December 30 at Reavis Final score: W 51-48
January 3 at Carver Military Academy Final score: W 58-50
January 11 at Marmion Final score: L 56-53
January 13 Northridge Prep Final score: W 44-36
January 16 Leo vs. Aurora Central Catholic Final score: W 54-44
January 17 Leo vs. U High Final score: W 58-25
January 19 Leo vs. Fenwick Final score: L 44-29
January 23 at Providence St. Mel Final score: W 60-27
January 26 at DePaul Prep Final score: L 62-23
January 27 Clark at Rich Township Shootout Final score: W 34-26
January 30 Leo vs. St. Francis De Sales Final score: L 43-41
January 31 at Riverside Brookfield High School Final score: L 62-54
February 2 at Loyola Final score: L 58-37
February 4 Oak Lawn H.S. at Evergreen Park Shootout Final score: L 68-61
February 6 Leo vs. Mount Carmel Final score: L 63-41
February 9 at St. Ignatius Final score: L 72-43
February 14 at Marshall High School Final score: L 53-51
February 21 CISC Longwood Final score: W 35-34
February 23 Percy Julian H.S. Final score: W 45-39
February 27 Phillips Final score: L 64-37
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By Dan McGrath

The fight went the distance, but practically speaking it was a first-round knockout.

Phillips’ Wildcats put on a dazzling shooting display in the first quarter, raced out to a 29-6 lead and went on to bury the Leo Lions 64-37 in an IHSA Class 2-A Sectional semifinal Tuesday evening at Corliss High School. 

The Public League Wildcats (21-9) looked like uncommonly good shooters warming up. Then the game started and they were even better than that, burying 11 of 12 first-quarter attempts, including five three-pointers. 

As if sensing the shots  wouldn’t fall all night, Phillips also threw a defensive blanket over the Lions, alternating between a 2-2-1 press and a grimly efficient man-to-man that limited Leo to 28 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.

Comeback? Not tonight—Leo never got closer than 20. The Lions closed the books on a 13-20 season that was not without its rewards: a regional title, a five-win improvement over last season and invaluable experience for a Kids ’R Us roster that included five freshmen and no seniors.

 “It’s said that you have to have your heart broken before you can become a champion, and I believe that,” Coach Jamille Ridley said in a tomb-quiet Leo locker room. “If we’re in this position next year, we’re going to come out of it with smiles on our faces if we put in the work and get better, and we will.” 

Some unsolicited advice for the winner of Wednesday’s Dyett-Hansberry semifinal, which will play Phillips for the sectional title on Friday: Say a prayer. 

Leo’s schedule was overloaded with 3-A and 4-A opponents this season, but the Wildcats looked to be a match for any of them and certainly will be a  formidable presence as the 2-A state tournament moves along. 

Lawrence Horton, a patient, stylish left-hander, hit four of five shots and had 11 points in that back-breaking first quarter. He finished with 15, the last two coming on an emphatic dunk off an inbounds play that brought the crowd to life and reminded everyone just how talented Phillips is.

Phoenix Childs had 12 in the first half, 21 for the game and was a lively presence all over the floor with eight rebounds and four blocks.   

Leo got 10 points from freshman Nate Stephens and eight (with five rebounds) from junior Stephen Barze, but its youthful guard line offset 11 total points with 14 turnovers and was exposed by Phillips’ veterans. 

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys,” Ridley said. “They fought hard all year, and as young as they are, they never backed down. If we put in the work and do what we have to do over the summer, we’ll be back. And it will be a different story.”