ADDISON – Moments like what Harrison Niego created Wednesday night are what March Madness is all about.
Hoffman Estates' Jorden Thornton made a free throw with 5.6 seconds left to give the Hawks the lead before Niego drove the floor for a game-winning layup at the buzzer. Lyons Township survived 71-70 in the Addison Trail regional semifinal.
The fourth quarter featured eight lead changes, including four in the final minute, but it was Niego's heroics that have LT (17-10) advancing to Friday's regional final against top sectional seed York.
"I was definitely expecting the ball," Niego said. "He made the free throw, I got the inbound and I just took it to the hoop. I knew I wanted to be aggressive and either draw a foul or get a basket."
Niego scored 10 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter.
"That's the reason everybody talked about him being a really good player," LT coach Tom Sloan said. "A situation like that we got the ball in his hands and he made a play."
Hoffman Estates (18-10) led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but the Lions ended the half on a 6-0 run to go into the break trailing 33-29. The Lions made another run at the start of the second half with six straight points from Matt Mrazek, who finished with 14 points.
The rest of the game was back and forth with neither team leading by more than six the rest of the way.
Thornton scored a game-high 23 for the Hawks. Jim Cullen added 19 points for the Lions.
In the regional final, LT will take on a familiar York team, which beat them three times during the regular season.
"Last time at LT we took them to overtime," Niego said. "We're very confident after this win and that we'll have a shot to beat them. They're our rivals. It's always real competitive and in the playoffs you never know."