DOWNERS GROVE – It hadn’t been a great night shooting for Karol Lipiszko.
That didn’t stop him when it mattered most.
The Hinsdale South senior hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Hornets to a 44-41 win against Geneva in a Class 4A regional final March 3.
“I threw it up and the accuracy was so on, I just looked at it and it went in,” Lipiszko said. “It’s the greatest shot I’ve ever hit.
“This feeling is indescribable. I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now. It’s just so much joy and so much happiness being back-to-back regional champions.”
After a pair of timeouts with 3.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Nick Perry received the inbounds pass from Robert Barnes in the backcourt. The plan was for Perry to attack the rim, but Perry called an audible and got the ball to Lipiszko, who was just 1 for 5 from the field before the last shot.
“He was going to take the shot, but he saw my defender sag off of me and go onto him,” Lipiszko said. “He saw me wide open and gave it to me.”
It is the second straight regional title for the Hornets (19-11), who lost four starters from last year’s team but found a way as a No. 10 seed to knock off the No. 2 Vikings, who started the season with 27 consecutive victories.
Out of the 32 teams left in the Class 4A playoffs, Hinsdale South is one of just two teams that are seeded No. 10 or higher (No. 11 Lake Park is the other).
“We started talking to these guys about this at our very first practice,” South coach Brett Moore said. “We brought out the regional title ball from last year and said, ‘This is a group that can do it, if you buy in,’ and that’s what happened.
“I’ve seen lots of teams where kids haven’t necessarily bought in, and our kids are willing to give up all the individual stuff.”
Leading 36-31 on Zion Griffin’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, the Hornets saw the Vikings take a 37-36 lead and then go ahead 40-38 on Matt Johnston’s 3-pointer with 4:03 remaining. Griffin’s driving layup followed moments later by a free throw put South ahead before a Geneva free throw knotted the score at 41-41 with 2:38 left.
In the second quarter, the teams went back and forth before Diamond Anderson’s three-point play put the Hornets ahead 23-21 at halftime. South led throughout the third quarter before Geneva battled back to grab the lead twice in the fourth quarter.
“I was a little worried when they hit back-to-back threes to put us down because I think our kids thought they lost momentum there, but we came right back,” Moore said. “In both of these [regional] games it’s been like that where we’ve had decent leads and let them back in it.
“Both of these teams, Downers Grove North and Geneva, are really good teams. We knew we had to play our best basketball of the year to beat either one of those teams and we did it and I’m really proud of the guys.”
Anderson scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. Griffin had a team-high 14 points, Barnes had eight, and Lipiszko finished with six.
When Lipiszko’s shot fell through the net as the buzzer sounded, the Hornets’ bench erupted in celebration and Lipiszko was gang-tackled to the ground by his teammates at center court. The win is a huge boost of confidence, but Lipiszko knows the celebration won’t last forever.
“We’re going to celebrate, but then it’s back to work to focus on the sectional,” he said.
If you go
Who: No. 6 Wheaton North vs. No. 10 Hinsdale South
What: Class 4A sectional semifinal
When: 7 p.m. March 8
Where: Hinsdale Central High School, 5500 Grant St., Hinsdale