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For St. Laurence’s Aaliyah Flores, family comes first, even in the sectional. ‘We 100% support each other.’

This is one of those weeks during the winter season where if freshman guard Aaliyah Flores wasn’t playing in a postseason game for St. Laurence she would be watching one.

The schedule had Flores playing in the sectional on Tuesday and Thursday night and watching her brother play for the boys team in a regional the Vikings host Wednesday and Friday.

“It’s been chaotic at home,” Aaliyah said. “A lot of games going on. A lot of practicing.

“We 100% support each other.”

Flores needed that support Thursday night as St. Laurence dropped a 42-29 decision to Hinsdale South in the Class 3A St. Ignatius Sectional championship game in Chicago.

Points were not easy to come by as Flores led the Vikings (22-12) with seven. Sara Burzycki, Kathleen Martin and Clare Allison added five points apiece.

Amerie Flowers scored 16 points to pace Hinsdale South (25-10), which plays at 7 p.m. Monday in a supersectional the Hornets host against Marian Catholic (28-7), a 43-40 winner over Butler.

St. Laurence tied a program record for wins this season and made it to the sectional final for the first time in program history. The Vikings entered the postseason as the fourth seed.

That made it a fun first season for Flores, especially after St. Laurence knocked off top-seeded Hyde Park 48-46 to reach the sectional final. She led the Vikings in scoring, averaging 12 points.

“The energy on this team was really great,” Flores said. “It was so exciting. I always thought about this and dreamed about this since I was younger.

“And finally, after being in that moment, it’s honestly been great. I’ve loved it. I’m looking forward to my next three years.”

St. Laurence’s Sara Burzycki, right, brings the ball up the court against Hinsdale South during the Class 3A St. Ignatius Sectional championship game in Chicago on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Jeff Vorva / Daily Southtown)

Burzycki, a sophomore guard, led the Vikings in rebounds this season, averaging seven. She was a freshman last winter on the varsity and knew exactly what Flores was going through.

“At the beginning last year, I was so nervous,” Burzycki said. “I didn’t know if she was going to be nervous, so I tried to help her out, but she was pretty set.

“She knew what to do and fit in well with everyone.”

Last season, St. Laurence finished 17-16. In the offseason, former Marist and St. Xavier standout star Claire Austin took over as head coach. There were a lot of new things to navigate.

“We had a lot of big changes with a new coach and a new team,” Burzycki said. “But we worked so well together. That was my favorite thing. We knew how to read each other well.”

Austin is excited about the future. She also praised her seniors for their contributions.

“I learned a lot from them,” Austin said. “It was like they took me under their wing.”

St. Laurence’s Ariana Vaitkeviciute, middle, hangs onto the rebound despite pressure from Hinsdale South during the Class 3A St. Ignatius Sectional championship game in Chicago on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Jeff Vorva / Daily Southtown)

But having Flores and Burzycki making big plays at such a young age is another positive sign.

“They bring scoring, they bring rebounding, and just their overall attitude,” Austin said. “They don’t act like underclassmen. They are not scared to take the big shot. They are not scared to go in and drive against 6-foot-4 girls going Division I. They are just willing to do anything we ask of them.

“And they are always looking to score on the their own.”

Flores, who had a taste of national competition playing AAU, said she loves the game.

“Playing basketball just makes me so happy,” she said. “I’ve always looked up to my brother who plays, and it’s been our thing for years. I love everything about it.”

Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

Jeff Vorva , 2024-02-23 05:54:34

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