The Leo Lions have reached the Supersectional round of the IHSA state basketball tournament for the first time since 2009 thanks to a 68-56 victory over Chicago Hope Academy in the championship game of the Class 1-A Elgin Sectional on Friday, March 4.
Leo (22-8) will face defending 1-A state champion Brimfield (30-2) in the DeKalb Supersectional at Northern Illinois University on Tuesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. The winner advances to Peoria for the semifinal and final rounds of the state tournament on Friday and Saturday, March 11-12.
The Lions’ 12-point margin of victory over Hope was misleading. Hope is a team of quick, scrappy defenders and dangerous shooters who kept Leo off balance for much of the evening.
Leo trailed by four after three quarters, but exerted some defensive pressure of its own and shut Hope down in the fourth, limiting it to eight points. Meanwhile, Darias Oliver and Darius Branch asserted themselves at the offensive end as the Lions gradually pulled away.
Oliver scored a game-high 25 points, two on a breakaway dunk that gave Leo the lead for good with six minutes left. Branch’s hands are a good place for the ball to be in a close game—the senior point guard went 12-for-12 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and 13-for-14 for the game, finishing with 21 points.
Kobe Hampton had nine points, plus a steal and a forced turnover that epitomized Leo’s fourth-quarter defensive effort.
Brimfield is located in Central Illinois, off I-74 between Peoria and Galesburg. The Indians’ 30-2 record includes a perfect 12-0 showing in the Prairieland Conference. They have averaged 67 points to their opponents’ 45 through Regional and Sectional play. Leo has averaged 77 points to the opponents’ 48.
SCORE LIST UPDATE
Melrose Park Regional at Walther Christian
Feb. 22: Leo 74, Douglass Charter 40
Feb. 26: Leo 80, John Hope 57 (championship)
Elgin Sectional at Harvest Christian Academy
March 1: Leo 87, Westminster Christian 41
March 4: Leo 68, Chicago Hope Academy 56 (championship)
DeKalb Supersectional at Northern Illinois University
March 8: Leo (22-8) vs. Brimfield (30-2), 6 p.m.