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Bloom's Zerell Jackson dribbles past Hillcrest's Kyle Oden. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Johnny Griffin wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Bloom’s 6-4 senior realized his teammate Jared Johnson was going to attempt a near-half court heave just before the buzzer. There wasn’t enough time left for anything else.
“I knew he was going to shoot it and I knew it was going to be short,” Griffin said. “So I just followed the ball and hoped I’d have enough time.”
Griffin grabbed the rebound and put it back for a score just before the buzzer, giving the No. 12 Blazing Trojans a 54-52 win over No. 5 Hillcrest in the Chicago Heights Classic in Chicago Heights.
“I kinda knew how much time I had,” Griffin said. “I knew I was going to have to hurry up and finish.”
Griffin scored 15 and grabbed nine rebounds. Dejahown Freeman led Bloom (3-0) with 19 points, including a three he banked in from the corner that may have foreshadowed the Blazing Trojans upcoming good fortune.
“We practice some different things, but nothing really like those two plays we had tonight,” Bloom coach Jasper Williams said.
Hillcrest had the ball with the game tied at 52 and 30 seconds to play, but a crucial back court violation gave the ball to Bloom and set up Griffin’s heroic finish.
Jovan Mooring led the Hawks (2-1) with 21 points. At times he was dreadful, shooting 0-for-7 on ill-advised, college-length threes. But when Hillcrest needed him most he dominated the game, getting to the line on five consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, draining nine consecutive free throws.
Hillcrest’s Taylor Adway, a 6-7 sophomore, lived up to the preseason hype thrust on him by coach Don Houston. Adway looked like a blossoming star, with five points, seven blocks and five rebounds.
“This win is going to build up our confidence,” Williams said. “No one was counting on too much from us this season, since we lost our backcourt from last season. But this team thinks they can do big things.”
Bloom will face Homewood-Flossmoor in the tournament championship on Friday.