The East-West Classic got underway Thursday night with a single girls’ game pitting a pair of Top 5 teams at East Hamilton High School.
Host East Hamilton, ranked No. 3 by one service, took on No. 4 Houston – both were unbeaten – and the Lady Hurricanes got balanced scoring and tenacious defense to win 61-45.
The Lady Hurricanes (11-0) used a 14-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and pulled away to hand the Lady Mustangs (5-1) for the victory.
Action resumes Friday at East Hamilton with six more games, starting at noon when the Lady Hurricanes play Notre Dame, playing in the classic after Fayette-Ware’s girls dropped out earlier in the week.
East Hamilton’s boys take on Oakhaven at 1:30. Both Bradley Central teams swing into action with the Bears playing Bolton at 4:30 p.m. and the Bearettes squaring off with Houston at 6 p.m. (See the complete schedule below.)
“We saw this train wreck coming down the tracks,” Houston coach Ben Moore said. “Hopefully, it will take up our kids.”
Houston went 28-4 last season and lost to eventual state champion Riverdale in the semifinals at Middle Tennessee State University. The Lady Mustangs are a state tourney contender, but got only six minutes and three points from 2017 Miss Basketball runner-up Jayla Hemingway.
“Jayla had some upper respiratory issues at halftime,” Moore said. “She’s been sick and wasn’t in good shape.”
Hemingway, Madison Griggs and Destinee Wells are Houston’s primary offensive weapons this season. They combined for 14 points and 15 rebounds against the Lady Hurricanes.
Conversely, East Hamilton got a superb collective effort from sophomore Madison Hayes, sophomore DeZah Lacy and junior Kaiyanna Suttles. They combined for 48 points and 22 rebounds. Hayes led the way with 19 points Lacy had 18 and Suttles 11.
Hayes added nine rebounds, Suttles 10 (all on the defensive boards) for a double-double and Lacy had three.
The three standouts went a combined 20 for 37 from the field and helped East Hamilton’s defense hold the Lady Mustangs 21 points under their season scoring average.
“We all played together as a team and made sure our defense was better than our offense,” Hayes said. “Our defense wins games; it won the Houston game for us.”
Said East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore: “I thought we really did a nice job defensively on Griggs. We made it tough for her to score, but that’s what we do. On the year, we’ve held teams to 31 or 32 percent shooting and that’s our goal every game.”
Houston hit 15 of 47 shots for 31.9 percent against the Lady Hurricanes. Hemingway was 1 of 4, Wells 1 of 12 and Griggs 4 of 10 from the floor. Melisa Carter was Houston’s only offensive threat, finishing with a game-high 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Wells and Carter each had nine rebounds.
“Hemingway getting only six minutes obviously hurt them a lot, but they’re still a pretty good team even without her,” Gremore said. “When we put everything together, play unselfishly and play good defense we can be pretty good.”
The first half scoring was dominated by Hayes and Carter, each going into the halftime break with 12 points. Hayes had more help than Carter as Lacy tossed in 10 points for the Lady ‘Canes in the first half.
“We played good team ball tonight, just like we did against Harvin Valley and that was a hard team to play,” Lacy said. “I went into tonight’s game thinking it was just another game. We weren’t afraid of Houston. I just went out there and played.”
East Hamilton got off to a fast 6-0 start, but Houston scored 11 of the next 12 points and the two teams were tied 28-28 at halftime.
The Lady ‘Canes were up 39-35 late in the second period and scored the last seven points of the third period and the first seven of the fourth to push their lead to 53-35. Lacy had five points in the decisive offensive spurt.
“We’ve played some tough teams and that’s makes us play better ourselves,” Hayes said. “The balanced scoring, all three of us help each other out. Everybody had a good game today. We worked really hard and wanted to show everybody we’re good with a chance to go somewhere (in the postseason).”
Moore said his team’s inconsistency on the court showed up again in the classic opener.
“We’ve been up and down,” he said. “Some nights we’re great and some nights we’ve looked like this and gotten away with it. East Hamilton totally outplayed us and whipped us every way they could.”
Chick-fil-A is the primary sponsor for the classic.
Houston 14 14 7 10 – 45
East Hamilton 15 13 18 15 -- 61
Houston (45) – Hemingway 3, Gary 3, Griggs 9, Wells 2, Melisa Carter 23, Ken. Trice, Davis 3, Kel. Trice 2, Barnes.
East Hamilton (61) – Moon 4, DeZah Lacy 18, Kaiyanna Suttles 11, Madison Hayes 19, Zeh 3, Patton, Abernathy, Laboo 6.
3-Point Goals – Houston 3 (Gary 1, Griggs1, Davis 1), East Hamilton 2 (Suttles 1, Zeh 1).
At East Hamilton High School
Noon – Notre Dame girls vs. East Hamilton
1:30 p.m. – Oakhaven boys vs. East Hamilton
3 p.m. – Arlington girls vs. Oak Ridge
4:30 p.m. – Bolton boys vs. Bradley Central
6 p.m. – Houston girls vs. Bradley Central
7:30 p.m. – Fayette-Ware boys vs. Oak Ridge
At Bradley Central High School
1:30 p.m. – Bolton boys vs. Oak Ridge
3 p.m. – Houston girls vs. Oak Ridge
4:30 p.m. – Fayette-Ware boys vs. East Hamilton
6 p.m. – Arlington girls vs. Bradley Central
7:30 p.m. – Oakhaven boys vs. Bradley Central
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)