Once Homestead found their groove shooting the ball in the second half, they forced South Side to try and fight out of what seemed like an always growing hole. The Spartans beat the Archers 43-30 to claim their third SAC Tournament title.
It was each program’s third appearance in the tournament finals in the last four seasons.
Homestead beat the Archers 100-40 in 2015, the most lopsided final game ever in the tournament. The Spartans added a tournament title in 2016 and South Side captured the 2017 title.
Their SAC tournament finale win was the culmination of a 4-1 record posted over the last three days between Fort Wayne and New Castle’s Hall of Fame Classic.
“Some days it was tiring but just having each other around helped us to get through it. Being in each other’s company helped,” said Homestead senior Sylare Starks.
“I think it easier almost to handle the physical part than the mental part,” added Homestead coach Rod Parker. “It is a lot of turnaround of game film and scouting reports and walk throughs on buses. We are turning it around very quickly and having high expectations for the kids to come out and perform. If anything, we grew up this week.”
Homestead was able to get many point blank shots at the basket to build an early lead, but with five minutes to go in the first quarter, Jaci Jones drained a shot to make it 7-5 and then at the four minute mark, the Archers took the lead 8-7 on a Darriyn Hackbarth three pointer. Once they were able to grab the lead, the Spartans limited Homestead touches down the stretch. South Side spent much of the final two minutes of the first quarter moving the ball around with a single possession and maintained that 8-7 lead at the first quarter break.
30 seconds into the second quarter, Olivia Smith rotated down from South Side’s 1-2-2 zone to earn a jump ball from fellow freshman Ayanna Patterson in the first view of so many that will occur between the city’s two best freshmen over the next four seasons. But Patterson fought back on each of the next two possessions, showing her aggression down low for a pair of tough baskets to give Homestead an 11-10 lead and her eight of the Spartans’ first 11 points.
Defensively and patiently, the game’s pace didn’t allow for many scoring opportunities and the Spartans led 16-12 at the halftime break.
Just under a minute in a half into a similarly paced start to the second half, Sydney Graber took a gamble against the Spartans’ cold long range shooting and buried a three from the far corner to give Homestead a 19-12 lead. It was just the second three the Spartans hit in the game and first since Homestead led 3-0. Jones would answer back 90 seconds later to keep the scoring pace even and keep Homestead on their toes.
Starks, who had struggled on the day, converted on a fast break basket with 4:28 to play in the third that drew a smile to her face; it was just her second basket of the contest and gave Homestead back an eight point lead at 23-15. At 3:36, Rylie Parker buried a three pointer right in front of her bench to extend the Homestead lead to double digits for the first time in the ball game.
“I really feel like it is a midseason Sectional and the SAC has great basketball teams so the opportunity to play in it is a great measuring stick for where your team is at two-thirds of the way through the season,” Rod Parker said.
Homestead led 32-20 after three quarters.
Patterson went back to work in the fourth quarter while South Side tried to answer with Jones’ jump shooting. Alaya Chapman closed the game back within single digits with her second basket of the game with 4:30 to play. At the four minute mark, Graber grabbed her ninth rebound of the game and converted on one of two free throws to push the Homestead lead to 11.
The Spartans never saw that lead waver.
Patterson finished with game highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds.
“She is getting better every day,” Rod Parker said of Patterson. “She is really becoming the difference maker in basketball games right now. She’s learned how to play defense and keep herself on the court and all day today you saw what a difference maker she was on both ends of the court.”
Starks added nine points and Graber had 10 rebounds. South was led by 12 points from Jones, all on her four made three pointers.
The win completed a year long trip back to a tournament title. Homestead, the top seed last year as well, fell in the quarterfinals to Bishop Luers in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets in recent memory. The loss left a bad taste in the mouths of this team, who returned all but one player from last season’s team.
“It means so much. Ever since that day we lost, we’ve put in so much work in the gym individually and as a team,” Starks said.