By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
OKOLONA – Hamilton has had Hatley’s number this season in girls’ basketball.
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.
“We wanted this one bad today,” Hamilton coach Sue Verner said. “It’s a big rivalry for us, so it’s the one game that they truly step it up in more than any other.”
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 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.
“They just played harder than we did today,” Hatley coach Terry Walters said. “And when you lose five times to them, undoubtedly they’re a better team than we are.”
The win sends Hamilton into a semifinal matchup with defending 2A champion New Site on Thursday.