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  The Homewood-Flossmoor unified basketball team
  wins the state title for the third straight year. The
  Flossmoor Fire Department came out to escort the team
  to the Flossmoor campus Sunday, March 17. 

  (Provided photo)

For the third year in a row, the boys Unified Basketball team has brought the state championship trophy to Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

The team defeated Andrew High School 60-57 in a game Saturday, March 16, in Peoria.
On their return trip, the team got the traditional “first place welcome” as a Flossmoor Fire Department escort led them down Kedzie Avenue to campus.
Unified teams allow special education students to compete with partners from the general school population. It is the third year the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), in conjunction with Special Olympics Illinois, has sanctioned Unified Basketball for competition. 
H-F Unified team members are Antonio Brown, Tyron Carr, Patrice Desronil, Boaz Epperson, Judah Epperson, Jalen Fair, Jaeon Golston, Joseph Incardella, Jorge Santos, Tyler Schlaffer, Kobe Sharp, Ward Watson Jr. and Joshua Wheeler.
The team is coached by Brian McLaughlin, David Dore and Micael Hamiter.
The H-F Vikings won the regional title by defeating the Andrew Thunderbolts by two points. 
“They were a tough team to beat,“ Laughlin, an H-F teacher and team coach, said. 
At state, H-F beat Limestone High near Peoria to advance out of the Final Four.
As luck would have it, H-F got to see Andrew a second time as their competitor in the state championship after Andrew won its Final Four game.
The championship game was another nail-biter. At one point, H-F was down more than a dozen points but fought back when Jorge Santos stole the ball to bring the score up to 55-53 for the Vikings. Andrew wasn’t done, though and tied the game 55-55 with just over two minutes on the clock. 
Seconds later, Andrew won a point to make it 56-55. Again Andrew answered to take the lead 57-55. H-F’s Tyler Schlaffer got position and shot for three making the score 58-57 with 48 seconds left in the game.
Santos brought it home for the Vikings scoring points 59 and 60 from the free throw line. With under 20 seconds on the clock, Andrew tried to recover but couldn’t fight off H-F’s defense.
“They played so hard. We’re really proud of them,” McLaughlin said of his winning team.
H-F Unified Basketball has eight special education students and five partners. Dore said they have been practicing once or twice a week since October and played a 17-game season.
When IHSA sanctioned Unified Basketball, H-F was one of the first high schools to have a team roster. Now, the majority of this team are seniors.
“Next year’s going to be tough because we’re losing nine team members,” who were players who helped establish Unified Basketball at H-F.
“We definitely have some students who are interested in continuing. We’ve been through this before and we’ll just keep going and keep offering the highest quality of sports,” Dore added.
H-F also has a Unified Soccer team and is hoping to get a track and field team in the future.

H-F’s Viking TV covered the game. The final two games, including the state championship, are available online.


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