Hinsdale South earns 1st state berth since 1977

A smiling Mia Lavorato pointed at the co-conference championship banner on the wall at Hinsdale South Monday night, beaming with pride considering just how far the Hornets program has come in her four years on the basketball court.

But after Monday’s historic 36-30 defeat of Marian Catholic in the Class 3A supersectional, the senior point guard and her teammates know even more achievements will be hung from the gymnasium walls in the very near future.

Riding another strong defensive effort on Monday, the Hornets held off a Spartans squad appearing in its third straight supersectional. Hinsdale South (26-10) led 4-2 after one quarter and 14-9 at the half, before building up double-digit leads in the second half and hanging on to advance to Friday’s state semifinals against Chatham Glenwood, which knocked off top-seeded Highland 45-38 on Monday.

The only other time the Hornets made it to state was in 1977, the first year the IHSA held a girls basketball state tournament.

“It feels amazing,” said Lavorato, a four-year varsity player. “Freshman year me and Mimi [Flowers] were on varsity and we won two games our freshman year with COVID [shortening the season]. Then we hit sophomore year and won 9 games, and junior year we had 19 wins. Now we’re at 26 wins and we’re going downstate. This is crazy. It shows hard work really does pay off.”

Lavorato teamed with her fellow veteran Flowers to help hold off a Spartans squad that entered play with 28 wins and Western Illinois -bound Madison Davis, one of the school’s best players ever. But Lavorato had 13 points and 5 rebounds and a number of key passes to Flowers, including a football toss that broke the Marian Catholic press and led to layup and a 30-23 lead in the fourth quarter.

“We’re already on the wall for conference champs and we already accomplished so many goals this year. I’m so proud of this team.” Lavorato added.

Flowers, who will play at Benedictine University next year, was a force down low with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomores Sloane Kiefer and Anna Wilcox added key baskets and Maeve Savage’s defense on Davis made the Spartans star work hard for her 18 points on 8-for-16 shooting.

“I’m just super excited … to have coach Tanaka put up with me for four years, and to believe in me is such a blessing,” Flowers said. “Me and Mia battled it out in middle school and now we’re teammates and now we’re making history.”

Hornets coach Scott Tanaka has built the team around great defense and in believing in one another. Having seniors like Flowers and Lavorato around helps, and the program is having a special season and a lot of fun along the way.

“To have two great senior leaders like we do who believe, and then the younger girls will follow,” he said. “When you can get 12 girls who can believe then you get something special like we got tonight.”

The Hornets led 25-19 after three quarters thanks in part of Kiefer’s big 3-pointer. They then made just enough free throws and forced four Spartans turnovers in the final quarter to prevail.

“That’s what we do is we defend and the girls did it for 32 minutes,” Tanaka said. “That’s what we talked about and we talked about taking care of the ball. We can always take care of the ball a little better but at the end of the day, Amelia Lavorato, our point guard, stepped up, knocked down big free throws when she had do, and we took care of the ball when we had to. And we’re moving on.”

Savage, who had 6 points and 5 rebounds to go with her stellar defense, knows this team is going to be remembered for some time.

“It’s insane,” Savage said. “Obviously, all of the hard work is paying off. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s so cool we’ve made so much history already. This is totally insane. It’s like a dream.

“It’s totally incredible and nobody would have thought Hinsdale South girls … we were always pretty middle, average, and now everybody knows our name.”

Marian Catholic coach Dan Murray, who is closing in on 500 career wins, was hoping to guide the school to its first supersectional win since 2014.

“The ball doesn’t go in the hole when you don’t take a good shot. We did not do a good job of staying disciplined in any way shape or form from an offensive perspective,” he said. “Give Hinsdale credit because their pressure took us out of a lot of things. But ultimately we need to be a lot more disciplined to be able to get past a supersectional.”

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