Hamilton sweeps championship games at Hatley tournament
HATLEY – Hamilton struck a big blow in its biggest county rivalry on Saturday, taking both tourament championship games from the host in the Hatley Tournament.
The Lady Lions did it in dramatic fashion, coming from behind in the closing minutes of the game to take the 41-39 win and beat their rival for the second time this season. They were down by as much as 29-13 in the beginning of the third quarter.
“We don’t do anything easy,” Hamilton coach Sue Verner said. “We got deflated there for a little bit, but this is the first time in a long time we’ve had the opportunity to win the tournament. I knew they wouldn’t give up. Before the end of the game, I told them that whatever happened to leave everything out there on the court, and they stepped up.”
Hatley took a 13-8 lead at the end of a back-and-forth first quarter behind a pair of free-throws from Jamelle Vance and a basket from Lachelle Vance and carried a 12-point lead into the locker room at the break.
Hamilton got going chipping away at the Lady Tigers’ lead in the fourth when Mary Willis opened the quarter with a layup. Points from Alainey Hughes and Laneisha Danner drew Hatley’s lead to 33-30 at one point, and Willis tied it up with a pair of free shots and gave Hamilton its first lead since early in the game on a two-point play.
“The referees started letting us play football. We can play basketball with them,” Hatley coach Terry Walters said. “When they let fouls like that go, they’re so much more stronger physically than we are that it’s hard for us to maintain control of the ballgame.”
Lachelle Vance would grab the lead back for Hatley a few seconds later with a bucket, but Willis tied it up again on a free-throw shot before Drucilla Blevins knocked down the winning shot in the final minute of the game.
Verner praised Hamilton’s defense in the win.
“I told them all year that someone was going to make them play man defense, and the first half we had to go man because they held the ball,” Verner said. “The first half they finally buckled down and realized that was the only way they were going to get back in the game in the second half was to man up. We adjusted well in the second half.”
Lachelle Vance led Hatley with 16 points in the loss and also led on the boards with nine rebounds. Mary Willis was the leading scorer for Hamilton with 10 points, while Hughes and Christy Willis each finished with eight.
“A team coached by Terry Walters is always a threat,” Verner said. “I’m sure he’ll come out with something different this next time because he made it hard for us this time. We’ll just have to be prepared and continue to work hard until then.”
As division opponents, the two teams will meet at least twice more this season and will probably play again in the Monroe County Tournament in January.
“We have to be able to control them being physical and not lose composure,” Walters said. “When they got physical tonight, we lost composure, and it cost us tonight. We’re a young team, but we’ve still got two seniors who should be able to control that.”
(B) Hamilton 56, Hatley 47
After a back-and-forth second quarter, Hatley took a 25-22 lead into the locker room on a three-pointer from Dewayne Word, but a strong second half from Hamilton would give them the tournament championship with a 56-47 win.
“We did a pretty good job tonight on defense, even if we’re not running the offense like we need to yet,” Hamilton coach Drew Garvin said. “I was hoping how well we played last night would carry over because we had a great second half last night.”
Ben Seely hit a pair of two-point shots to open the third quarter, and Dominque Dobbs followed him with a basket. Word would grab the lead back for Hatley with a pair of shots but Hamilton finished the third with a 6-0 run to take the lead for good.
“It was just a struggle tonight,” Garvin said. “We tried to get the ball in to Ben and couldn’t, so we used Dominique, and last night he was driving the lane better. He’s really coming around though and playing hard.”
Hamilton had two starters in double digits. Dobbs scored 22 points, while Seely finished with 20 points. Word led Hatley in the loss with 17 points, while Deion Hampton finished with 12 points, all on three-pointers.
“We started off the season playing some 4A and 5A schools so we took our beatings,” Garvin said. “It can only be up from here, and I feel like we gained a lot of confidence this week. We have to have faith in what we’re doing, and I think we’re working towards that.”
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About Melissa Meador
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