Early push from Sylare Starks a catalyst in Homestead’s Sectional title win

Homestead went inside five times in a row on Saturday night to start their 63-36 win over South Side that resulted in a Sectional championship. It amounted to a quick lead on the steady hands of Sydney Graber and Haley Swing.

But when South Side pushed back, even tying the game at 12 on a Jaci Jones three pointer, it was Spartan senior Sylare Starks that slammed the door. Her first basket gave Homestead their 11th and 12th points, but after South Side tied the game at 12, Starks went on a 7-0 run of her own to end the first quarter. Her own run added an exclamation point at the first quarter buzzer when she buried a three pointer to give Homestead a 19-12 lead.

It was part of 11 straight Spartan points scored exclusively by Starks, who would end the first half with 14 points and eventually a game high 16 points at final buzzer.

“I just remember what happened last year and was like ‘I have to do it for my team.’ I just want to do everything I can to help us get the victory so we can be champions,” Starks said, beaming with excitement as her teammates cut down the nets on Saturday night.

Homestead’s girls basketball team celebrates their Class 4A Sectional title after February 2’s win over South Side.

What you need to know about Homestead returning back to Sectional championship form is that Starks was an early catalyst and after her big personal run, the Archers were never fully able to recover. What else you need to know is that her two second half points show that Homestead had plenty of helping hands. But, what’s new?

With 2:03 left in the second quarter, South Side’s Olivia Smith drove to the basket around the defense of Starks, but Bri Lucas came up with a big block of the freshman. Lucas then immediately grabbed the ball and threw a half court outlet ahead to Rylie Parker for a layup. When Swing grabbed a long rebound off a Starks miss and drilled a halftime buzzer beating fadeaway from 15 feet, the Spartans could have delivered the final dagger to South Side’s hopes of beating the Spartans in Sectional play for a second straight season.

“I thought tonight we came out with great energy. We executed our game plan very well and the most important thing is we played both ends of the court really well tonight,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said.

“We defended hard every possession. We forced them into tough shots that we rebounded. We just did those little intangible tonight that are important when you are going to win a big basketball game against a good team.”

Kudos to South Side though. They didn’t let the final rush for Homestead before the half do them in. Instead, they hung tight throughout the third quarter on the steady hands of Smith and Jones.

Homestead senior Haley Swing hits a free throw during the second half of Saturday, February 2’s Sectional title game against South Side.

In the fourth however, Homestead pulled away, finding ways to work the ball inside confidently and comfortably as they officially put South Side away for their 13th Sectional title. By doing so, they also officially exorcised the demons of their 2018 season when they failed to win the SAC Tournament and then were beat by South Side on Sectional opening Tuesday. Last year, the Archers got to celebrate their postseason title on their home court, but this time Homestead looked as comfortable as they have in their three wins over South Side to celebrate at their school.

“When we had that loss last year, it left something in us that we knew we had to come back and play harder every possession and start with energy,” Starks said. “It makes this special.”

The Archers did manage to hold Homestead freshman Ayanna Patterson to no made field goals and just four total points. Patterson did not score until 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. As usual, the team was there to pick up any slack of any one player. Starks ended with 16, followed by 14 points from Graber, 13 from Swing and seven points each from Parker and Kara Gealy.

South Side was led by Jones’ 15 points and 10 from Smith.

Homestead will advance to what is always one of the state’s toughest Regionals next Saturday. They will be joined by Zionsville, who beat Harrison and Hamilton Southeastern, who beat Carmel, on Saturday night as well. The Spartans will have to wait until Monday to see what other team claimed a spot in the Regional, which will be played at Kokomo.

RELATED: Girls Sectional hoops scoreboard and schedule

COMING WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6: Outside the Huddle talks Homestead’s championship legacy ahead of their Regional play

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