In a textbook example of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, the East Hamilton Hurricanes came away from East Ridge Monday night bloodied but unbowed.
The Hurricanes, needing a win to insure themselves of a winning record for the first time in school history, built a 17-point lead on the Pioneers, then watched it nearly collapse like a house of cards. Led by the long-range marksmanship of Derrick Davidson, who scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers cut the deficit to a single possession but could not close the deal.
East Hamilton coach Mike Stone, delighted to be leaving the gym with a 74-67 victory, agreed that the near-collapse was averted by some good old-fashioned defense. That seems implausible, because East Hamilton allowed the Pioneers to cut it from 17 to three in less than three minutes.
“When we came out of the timeout after they made it a single-possession game, we told them it was still all about defense,” Stone said. “If we did the job defensively, we wouldn't even need to score another point.”
But the defense answered the challenge. On their next three possession, the Hurricanes benefitted from an unforced travel in the open court, a steal beneath the goal and another travel cause by heavy traffic. And despite scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers were scoreless over the final 1:50. The final margin came thanks to the 'Canes nervously hitting 4 of 8 free throws in in the final 1:08.
The East Hamilton attack was led by Cody Knox's 20 points. But the turning point in the game – for East Hamilton, not East Ridge – came when Knox fouled out with 2:22 to play and East Hamilton leading but vulnerable at 67-61.
“We count on him,” Stone admitted. “He's probably one of the best players on our team when it comes to creating shots and opportunities for himself. To win it with him sitting over there by me is a huge growing point for this team.”
Additional production came from several sources. Donnie Powell scored nine points in the fourth quarter to finish with 18 points, while Kenny Bunton threw two crowd-inciting dunks into the mix as he scored 14.
Stone wasn't the only coach involved in Monday's game hoping there was something learned by their squad. The Pioneers; Jon Goddard was so disgusted with his team's early effort (or lack thereof), it pretty much offset the gutsy comeback.
“Enthusiasm and determination – that was the only difference between the start of the game and the end,” Goddard sighed. “We showed some fight tonight, though. Hopefully, they know that made the difference.. We know we can play with anyone in the district.”
Eddie Hitchcock supported Davidson's big night with 17 points, while point guard Kolbe King hit a pair of treys and scored nine for the game. The Pioneers must bounce back quickly, as they face Red Bank in a district contest tonight.
EAST HAMILTON GIRLS 68 EAST RIDGE 41 Jumping to a 20-point lead after a quarter, the East Hamilton Lady Hurricanes won their ninth straight District 6-AAA contest without a loss Monday, defeating host East Ridge 68-41.
Jessica Caudle hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of her 14 point nights, but East Hamilton did most of its damage inside as center Juliette Harp led all scorers with 20 points. The Lady Pioneers, who had only four points in the first quarter, failed to place any player in double figures..
GIRLS SCORING SUMMARY:
East Hamilton 24 14 19 11 – 68
East Ridge 4 10 14 13 – 41
EAST HAMILTON (68) – Jessica Caudle 14, Petit 2, Juliette Harp 20, Stovall, Woods 2, K. Caudle 6, McCullum, Montgomery 2, Zackery 9, Kaylee Moon 10, Wood 3.
EAST RIDGE (41) – Halfacre 7, Finley 3, Moon, Norwood, Ieashia Taylor 9, Hubbard 4, Calloway 2, McKibben 4, Lawrence, Tate, Davis, Epps 4.
3-point goals: EH 3 (J.Caudle 2, Zackery); ER 2 (Finley, Taylor). Records: East Hamilton 14-9, 9-0; East Ridge 3-17, 1-8.
BOYS SCORING SUMMARY:
East Hamilton 18 19 15 22 – 74
East Ridge 12 13 13 29 – 67
EAST HAMILTON (74) – Thompson 8, Donnie Powell 18, Kenny Bunton14, Herndon 8, Griffith, Cody Knox 20, Dennis 2, Watkins 4.
EAST RIDGE (67) – King 9, Tillery 3, Millener 1, Talley 3, Derrick Davidson 24, Eddie Hitchcock 17, Jones 4, Johnson 2, Hendrix 4.
3-point goals: EH 8 (Powell 3, Thompson 2, Bunton, Herndon, Knox); ER 11 (Davidson 6, Hitchcock 2, King 2, Tillery). Records: East Hamilton 14-7, 6-3; East Ridge 9-11, 4-5.