Boys Basketball: Willie Conner, Crane hold off Homewood-FlossmoorHomewood-Flossmoor's Antonio Bishop guards Crane's Timothy Triplet during the Team Rose Classic at Collins on Sunday. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 11, 2011 8:16PM
Willie Conner started this season with a lot of unknowns, including a brand-new basketball coach (Chris Head) and no college plans.
Sunday at Collins, after spearheading an impressive second-half comeback against Homewood-Flossmoor, Conner cemented his status as one of the most well-known players in the city.
The 6-4 senior scored 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Cougars defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 61-57 in the marquee matchup of the Team Rose Classic.
“This was a statement game for us,” Conner said. “We just wanted it very badly and I think that really showed in the second half.”
Conner has blossomed into a star, one of the best players in the city. But the victory would not have been possible without the eye-opening play of sophomore Issaiah Hayes, who scored 15 points and had six rebounds.
“He’s going to be a special player,” Conner said. “Right now he’s just learning to settle down and play in our system.”
H-F led by five points after Tim Williams’ dunk with 6:30 to play in the third quarter. A steal and basket by Markee Williams, followed by two threes and a jumper from Hayes, put the Cougars ahead 35-31.
H-F managed to tie the game on a three by Tyrone Sherman early in the fourth, but the Vikings would never lead again.
Conner sealed the win by converting three of four free throws in the final 22 seconds.
Delvon Rencher led the Vikings (6-2) with 19 points. Sherman and Antonio Bishop each scored nine.
“Crane just played harder than us,” H-F coach Jim McLaughlin said. “When a team plays harder than you you are going to lose.”