The Spartans had a look in their eyes Saturday night.
A look that was focused, undeterred by the large crowd and, most importantly, confident.
This look came over every Spartans player before the game tipped off, from senior Alison Stephens, who was in her fourth sectional title game, to freshman Myah Epps in her first.
This confidence led the Spartans to a program-record fifth straight sectional championship over Huntington North, 59-44.
“This team, I’m very proud of them. This is a team that I coached really hard so far and they rose to the challenge. They keep getting better every day,” Homestead head coach Rod Parker said. “I was really impressed this week with the confidence they came in with and how well they played together.”
The Spartans (19-5) hit 12 three-pointers, from six different players, in the win. Stephens led Homestead with four triples and 16 points. Molly Stock and Epps each had nine.
The Spartans weren’t the favorite coming into this year’s sectional. That noise didn’t get to the team. Instead, it fueled them.
“It’s super exciting, especially coming into this sectional as the underdog. This whole year we’ve been the underdog,” Stephens said.
“Knowing we were the underdog, it lit a fire for us,” Stock said.
Homestead and Huntington North (19-5) traded baskets to start the game, but the defense for the Spartans started to pick up as the first quarter wore on. Marissa Trout, who led all with 20 points, had eight points in the first period. Her teammate Taylor Double finished with 14 points.
Defense was a point of emphasis for Homestead after it lost to the Vikings in overtime back in November.
“We’ve grown a lot as a team, and our freshmen have grown up a lot since early November,” Parker said. “I think we’ve come together more as a team. Defensively, we’re much better than we were back in November. We moved the ball a lot better. I thought our offensive possessions were very mature, and we got the shots that we wanted to get in our offense.”
The 17-10 lead after the first eight minutes quickly grew to 13 after a three from Stephens then a step-back triple from Epps.
“We struggled with our shot the first time we played them. We put a lot of confidence in shots, and we knocked down some great shots,” Stephens said.
“I think our mentality was really good. We had a lot of confidence in ourselves and with each other,” Stock said. “As we started hitting shots, more people started to and it built momentum.”
The shots kept falling for Homestead and their confidence continued to grow.
Stock hit a pair of threes to start the third quarter, and after Stephens drilled a three from the top of the key to start the fourth quarter, her confident look intensified. She came up with a steal on the ensuing defensive possession.
Every time the Vikings looked like it was about to go on a run, the Spartans hit a big shot. As a team, the Spartans hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
The key for Homestead is keep it up against Fishers, the No. 3 team in Class 4A, at the Marion Regional next weekend.
Will it keep up the hot shooting? More likely no.
But it can continue to play with confidence and intense defense.
If it brings both of things with them to Marion next Saturday, it’s got a chance to bring home a regional championship.
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