Hampshire downs Boylan to reach sectional final
Hampshire's last defensive stand against Boylan was almost perfect.
It also showed how far the Whip-Purs have come in a self-admittedly up-and-down season.
"We changed it up (on Boylan). We switched everything," Hampshire coach Mike Featherly said. "We tried doing that earlier in the season and we just didn't do a good job communicating.
"That was awesome to see. We got after it defensively tonight."
With a 3-point lead and 19.5 seconds remaining, Hampshire's defenders battled through screens and didn't let Boylan get a clean look at the basket. Senior Johnny Close, the Titans' top shooter, was forced into the corner, shooting over 6-foot-4 Keynan Davis and hitting the back rim at the buzzer.
The Whips celebrated a 62-59 victory against top-seeded Boylan and will play No. 2-seeded Wauconda in the sectional final at 7 p.m. Friday. The Whips (22-11) have never won a sectional title in program history.
"It just goes to show how hard we've worked this season," said Jackson Milison, one of three Whips with 12 points. "I liked how we adjusted the switching (on Boylan's last possession). They all can shoot, especially No. 3 (Close). We just clamped down defensively."
Hampshire was keeping track of Close, wherever he moved.
"We knew they were going to look for No. 3," Featherly said. "Him coming off the ball screen kind of worried us, so we switched everyone. The guys executed it very well."
Hampshire led, 58-49, with 2:30 remaining after a one-handed slam by Davis, and back-to-back baskets from Jeremy Rosa and Milison. Boylan (25-8) had the next seven points, cutting the lead to 58-56.
Boylan later cut the lead to one, 60-59, on a putback from Close, but Milison nailed two free throws with 29.1 seconds left for a 62-59 lead. Hampshire was a perfect 11-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. Boylan was 9 of 13.
"He (Milison) doesn't get the headlines, he doesn't get the recognition, and I don't think he cares," Featherly said. "He's been so solid for us all season. He hit some big 3s and those big free throws at the end. Of all the guys to foul, I want him on the line."
Hampshire sophomore forward Adam Ugochukwu also came up big for the Whips, scoring five points in the final 4:25. He guarded Boylan big man Anthony Brown for much of the game.
"This is new to me, and it's a great experience," said Ugochukwu, a first-year varsity player. "I just tried to keep (Brown) out of the post as much as possible. We watched film on him and I just made sure he stayed out of the post."
Brown finished with a game-high 16 points after scoring only four in the first half. Close and Andrew Latino added 15 apiece for the Titans.
Milison, Rosa and Woods each had 12 points, and Nick Erickson tossed in six points on two 3s. Milison came away with four steals, Woods tallied four assists, and Erickson grabbed seven rebounds.
The Whips will look to make history Friday.
"It means the world to all of us," Rosa said. "We fought to get here. We've been fighting all season. Now we're in a sectional championship, so we're happy."