Hamilton ends Hatley’s season with first-round tournament win

OKOLONA – Hamilton has had Hatley’s number this season in girls’ basketball.

Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal Hatley's Jamelle Vance dribbles the ball ahead of Hamilton's Alainey Hughes on Tuesday in the first round of the Division 1-2A basketball tournament.

Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
Hatley’s Jamelle Vance dribbles the ball ahead of Hamilton’s Alainey Hughes on Tuesday in the first round of the Division 1-2A basketball tournament.

The Lady Lions completed a five-game season sweep over their division rival, beating Hatley 52-50 in the first round of the Division 1-2A basketball tournament. The two teams met four times in the regular season with all matchups being decided by ten points or less.
“I think my girls really wanted this one bad today,” Hamilton coach Sue Verner said. “It’s a rivalry game for us, so it’s the one game that they truly step up for more than any other. That’s been the difference for us.”
Hamilton went on a 9-0 lead near the beginning of the first quarter to take an 11-4 lead before Kristen Cummings put in a basket and Jamelle Vance hit a pair of free throws to close the gap to 4 at the end of the quarter. An 11-6 run through the second quarter gave the Lady Lions a 26-17 lead at the half.
Hatley closed the gap to 2 at the end of the third on scores from Mollie Comer and Ashton Wright, and a layup from Vance tied it the game at 34-all in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Sarah Garvin answered with a basket of her own to get the lead back for Hamilton before Mary Reeves’ shot tied it back up. Hamilton took the lead for good on an Aaliyah Verner 3-pointer.
The Lady Tigers got back within 2 three more times in the quarter, but Christy Willis’ steal and basket in the closing seconds secured the Hamilton win. Willis led Hamilton with 18 points, while Vance led all scorers with 22 points. Mary Willis also scored 15 points for Hamilton.
“Every time we’ve played them, it’s been pretty even. It was a close game every time we played them, with the exception of the last time,” Hatley coach Terry Walters said.  They just played harder than we did today, and when they beat us five times in a row, undoubtedly they’re a better team than we are.”
Hatley returns the majority of its lineup with the only losses being senior guards Lachelle and Jamelle Vance.
“We have a lot of experience coming back. Hopefully we build at a lot of positions and be better next year,” Walters said.
The win gave Hamilton its second straight appearance in the North state tournament and also gave the Lady Lions their fourth straight win after snapping a seven-game losing streak.
“I think we’ve finally gotten everyone back healthy and gained our sense of urgency back,” Verner said. “We had lost our team chemistry during that time, and we got to arguing and bickering. I think we’re finally coming back together.”