Sports

Newcomer Pierce fits in with H-F’s stable of guards

Senior guard Layla Pierce and Homewood-Flossmoor take a six-game winning streak into a key conferenc  game with Lincoln-Way East next week. (David P. Funk/H-F Chronicle)

Layla Pierce says she’s “supposed to be a shooting guard,” and she is. But so are several of her Homewood-Flossmoor teammates. 

Senior Jaeda Murphy and sophomores Aunyai Deer and Jenesis Moore are also the type of guards who need their touches. There are others, too, and only one ball is in play at a time. 

All of the Vikings tend to leave games happy. 

“It’s a chemistry thing but we know when to share the ball. We know our certain spots on the court,” Pierce said. “We all just kind of communicate. It’s just communication.” 

Pierce transferred in from Joliet Catholic this year. She played with Murphy and Deere over the summer, so she felt like she’d fit right in.

Her experience could only help.

“I’ve been playing basketball a long time. Being a senior and coming and having to help out with two other seniors, I felt like my role was probably going to be pretty big,” Pierce said. 

It has been. But coach Tony Smith said it took a little bit of time for things to fall into place.

“We got a lot of guards and a lot of them want to get shots. That’s true. A lot of them when they’re not getting shots, they’re standing around,” coach Tony Smith said. “It’s a process of ‘Let’s stop waiting around for shots and just play. Let’s all be interchangeable and play hard. If we all play hard, everybody’s going to get shots and handle the ball and do those things.’” 

For the most part, things are working out.

The Vikings were 15-6 (3-1 SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue), as of Jan. 20. They’d rattled off six straight wins and Pierce said the team was playing as confidently as it has all season.

“The more we win, the more confident we get and the more we want to just keep winning,” she said. “We feel like we can get farther in the playoffs because of how many games we’re winning. I feel like we’re winning against good teams, too.”

H-F has one of the strongest schedules in the state, according to MaxPreps. 

The Vikings still trail only Bolingbrook in the conference standings. The Raiders beat H-F in Flossmoor on Dec. 18 but the teams will meet again in Bolingbrook on Jan. 25.

Before that game, though, H-F will need to win a second game against Lincoln-Way East to stay in the conference hunt. The Vikings won the first meeting 49-42 on Jan. 23. 

The Griffins (20-3, 2-2) are led by 6-foot-6 Illinois commit Hayven Smith. 

“We should just go with the same plan as last time. Our main thing is to stop (Hayven Smith) and just play super good defense on their guards,” Pierce said. “It’s mainly just about our defense.

The Griffins are 15-1 since that first game with H-F, with the only loss to Bolingbrook during that stretch. 

“They’re going to come in here and try to get us back because we went there and beat them,” Smith said. “I think they’re going to come in here excited and ready to play. We got to match their intensity and show them Viking intensity.” 

Pierce said the biggest aim this season is to advance deeper into the postseason than the Vikings did a year ago. She said she wants the difficult practices to be worth the effort. 

Bolingbrook ended H-F’s 2023 campaign in the Class 4A sectional finals, so it would take a good run to top that one. 

“When they are playing with confidence and just playing, it’s a fun team to coach. I’ll tell you that,” Smith said. “It’s a fun team.” 

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