Kenny Bunton says East Hamilton’s basketball team sent a short, but strong message Friday night in the Hurricanes’ first venture into District 5-AAA play.
“We’re a young team but we don’t play like it,” the 6-foot-5-inch sophomore forward/guard said.
East Hamilton placed four players in double figures and held off Soddy-Daisy, 68-63, to win its district debut at East Hamilton High School.
In the girls’ game, the Lady Trojans won their second game in as many nights with a 50-27 rout of the Lady Hurricanes.
Bunton had a game-high 19 points, including two of the Hurricanes’ eight 3-pointers and scored seven points in the fourth quarter when East Hamilton repeatedly answered Soddy-Daisy buckets to keep the lead.
“As a team we don’t give up,” said Bunton, who had eight points and both of his 3s in the second quarter that helped the Hurricanes take a 31-26 lead into halftime. “Just because (Soddy-Daisy) made a run doesn’t mean we can’t make a run.”
The Hurricanes (3-3, 1-0) hit the Trojans with a 14-2 spurt in the first quarter – Tracy Thompson had five points and Bunton four in the spurt – to open a 14-5 lead.
Nursing a 31-28 lead early in the third period, East Hamilton went on a 13-2 spree, stretched the lead to 44-30 and looked like it was ready to blow the Trojans out of the gym.
The Trojans had other ideas and scored 10 straight points – Marshea Jefferies and Bradley Whymer each had four points and Tre Carter added a basket – and climbed right back in the game at 44-40 with 44.3 seconds left in the quarter.
“These kids are fighting, they’re resilient and they don’t want to lose,” Trojans coach Reid Daniels said. “They’re tired of losing. This is about overcoming adversity and adopting a mindset that we are capable of winning. We’ve got the tools; we just have to do it.”
When Thompson drained a 3 from the left corner the Hurricanes had a 54-44 lead with 6:59 remaining in the game.
James York’s bucket and Andy Wright’s driving layup after an East Hamilton turnover, sliced the Hurricanes’ lead to 59-55 at the 3:52 mark. Bunton’s layup and put-back basket sandwiched Jefferies’ putback and the Hurricanes were up 63-57 with 2:12 left.
Amos hit a 3 from the left wing nine seconds later.
After a Thompson miss the Trojans worked the ball down court and Daniels got a timeout a split second before Amos canned a 3 from the left wing that did not count.
East Hamilton’s Quinn Griffin made two free throws with 47 seconds on the clock for a 65-60 lead and the Trojans’ Tucker Landreth launched a towering 3 from the top of the circle and the Hurricanes’ lead was down to two points.
Thirty-six-point-two seconds remained.
Tyler Lowery hit two free throws and Tank Sparks made 1-of-2 from the stripe to give the Hurricanes the final five-point victory margin.
“I’ve talked a lot about resolve to these players,” East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said. “We’re a young team and there are questions about our toughness in clutch situations. The fourth quarter for us was about as clutch as you can get.
“It’s hard to stop a team with four guys in double figures and we got some stops when we had to have them. It’s real nice to get our first district win in Triple A.”
The Hurricanes get another stiff test at home Tuesday when the high-octane Ooltewah Owls make a house call to East Hamilton’s spacious gym, which likely will be rocking from start to finish.
“We played Hamilton Heights last night, probably the best team in Chattanooga,” Stone said, “and tonight could have been called a trap game, except that Soddy-Daisy is a pretty good team, but Ooltewah is going to be a really big game. That game is going to be all about tempo. If we can control the tempo and not make a lot of turnovers we’ll have a chance to win.”
In preseason balloting, the Owls and Hurricanes were predicted to finish 1-2 during the regular season.
“This was a good way to start our district schedule,” said freshman Mac Brower, who scored 17 points. “It’s a lot easier when you play your big rival right after a win rather than a loss.”
Bunton is looking forward to the challenge the fast-paced Owls will bring to campus next week.
“Listen, I really thought we were going to blow Soddy-Daisy out when we got up on them by 14 points,” Bunton said, “but they came right back at us. Tuesday is going to be a really big game and I think this will help us come out strong against Ooltewah.”
Thompson finished with 13 points and Lowery added 11.
“When they’ve got four guys scoring like they did tonight, you don’t know who to key in on,” said Daniels, whose Trojans next face Cleveland on Tuesday. “It forced us into playing a press and that helped us for a while, but it also wore us out.”
York paced the Trojans with 16 points, half coming in the second quarter. Amos had 15, nine in the fourth quarter, and Jefferies added 10 points.
Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans, who knocked off Red Bank on Thursday, had slim leads throughout the first half and stretched the margin to 30-23 going into the final eight minutes of play.
Soddy-Daisy (2-4, 1-1) started the fourth period with a 14-2 run – Hannah Harris scored six of her nine of her 13 points and Morgan Hopkins got five of her seven points in the spree – and suddenly the Lady Trojans were pulling away with a 44-25 lead with 3:48 left in the game.
The Lady Trojans went on to outscore the Lady Hurricanes 20-4 in the final quarter.
“That’s the most complete game we’ve played this season,” Soddy-Daisy coach Drew Lyness said. “Our theme this year is to finish and we finished all night long. On that run in the fourth quarter I didn’t think we were tired, but I thought they were. My girls are playing with confidence right now.”
It was Soddy-Daisy’s first district win in two years, said Lyness, who was an assistant coach for two years before being hired in May to succeed David Casteel.
“We’re trying to change the mentality about Soddy-Daisy girls basketball,” Lyness said. “I think we took a huge step forward tonight.”
Mallory Wade added 11 points, including three Lady Trojans’ six 3-pointers.
Maggie Woods led the Lady Hurricanes (1-4, 0-1) with 10 points.
Soddy-Daisy 12 8 10 20 – 50
East Hamilton 8 9 6 4 – 27
Soddy-Daisy (50) – Hannah Harris 13, Hale 3, Hopkins 7, Sims, King 8, Phillips 3, Hancock 2, Woodward 3, Mallory Wade 11.
East Hamilton (27) – Petitt, Maggie Woods 10, Caudle 2, Stovall, Denton, Wood 7, Zackery 6, Black 2, Giles, Zeh, Maston.
3-Point Goals: Soddy-Daisy 6 (Wade 3, Woodward, Phillips, Harris); East Hamilton 1 (Woods).
Soddy-Daisy 7 19 14 23 – 63
East Hamilton 14 17 15 22 – 68
Soddy-Daisy (63) – Christian Amos 15, Landreth 5, Carter 5, Wright 5, Marshea Jefferies 10, James York 16, Floyd 3, Whymer 4, Eller.
East Hamilton (68) – Tracy Thompson 13, Tyler Lowery 11, Sparks 3, Kenny Bunton 19, Wright 1, Wingard, Griffith 4, Mac Brower 17.
3-Point Goals: Soddy-Daisy 4 (Landreth, Amos, Carter, Floyd); East Hamilton 8 (Thompson 3, Bunton 2, Brower 2, Lowery).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)