With a little more than three minutes left in the game, Aquinas’ Ahmed Hill broke away from the pack and slammed home a two-handed dunk, and with it, his team’s trip to the Class A Private boys basketball final four.
Hill led Aquinas with 25 points as the Fighting Irish cruised past Excel Christian 67-40 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
Aquinas (22-6) went to the
Class A Elite Eight twice in the past three years, but was never able to get into the final four. That will change this season in the private bracket, as the Irish will travel to Kennesaw State on Friday for a 5:30 p.m. game, with a chance to reach the finals.
“This team never ceases to amaze me,” Aquinas coach Bernie Norris said. “There have been so many positives this season. It’s a hungry group.”
In addition to Hill’s 25 points, Michael Scott scored 17 and Shalom Alvarez and Ruben Garnett each had seven.
Excel Christian (26-3) came out with the plan of double-teaming Hill, which led to several open looks for Garnett. He scored all seven of his points in the first half.
But the early blow to Excel, from which it was unable to recover, was Aquinas’ defense, which held the Eagles to eight points in the first half. The Irish countered with 21 in the second quarter and led 34-8 at the half.
“We knew we had to get out and play good defense,” Hill said. “We kept up the intensity. The defense was a big help tonight.”
With a 26-point lead entering the third quarter, Aquinas came out flatter, and the Irish were outscored 15-13 in the third.
However, Aquinas broke free with a 20-point fourth quarter, with half the total coming from Hill.
“It’s usual ’Med,” Norris said. “He gets there, he makes baskets, and he played good defense tonight, too.”
Excel Christian was led by Elijah Robinson’s 14 points. Rudy Winters added 10.
For Hill, the uncharted territory of a final four for Aquinas means the extra work put in during the off-season has come to fruition.
“Last year, I went with these guys, and we got knocked out of the Elite Eight,” he said. “The goal since last year was to get back and make the final four. Anything to get back.”