Cam Montgomery was living the dream Friday night.
The East Hamilton senior guard almost single-handedly put visiting Bradley Central in a quarry-deep hole by hitting three of his first four shots – all 3-ponters – and left the gymnasium with a career high 35 points in the Hurricanes’ 76-56 District 5-3A victory.
Montgomery’s performance was a stunning display of shooting – he scored 19 first period points that included five 3s – and had 30 points at halftime, five more than Bradley’s entire roster and ended with six of the Canes’ seven 3s.
The Canes’ enjoyed a 45-25 lead at the break.
“When the first 3 falls it feels good,” Montgomery said. “When the second and third fall you just want to keep shooting. My teammates knew I was feeling it and kept getting me the ball.”
The 35-point effort surpassed his previous best of 29 against Blackman in the 2016 Class 3A sectional, a win that punched the Canes’ ticket to their first state tournament.
Montgomery’s initial burst out of the gate gave East Hamilton a lightning-quick 9-0 lead. All that took place in 1 minute and 45 seconds and propelled the Canes to a 26-7 first-quarter lead.
“This was Cam’s best game of the season,” said East Hamilton coach Frank Jones, who has his team off to a 10-2 overall and 4-0 start atop the district standings. “We knew Cam has this type of offensive potential and he had a great game tonight. I’m glad for him.”
In the earlier girls’ game that pitted the top two preseason choices for the regular season championship, sophomore point guard Jamaryn Blair turned in an outstanding overall game with a team-high 21 points to spark the Bearettes to a 47-38 victory.
Bradley has won all 15 games against East Hamilton, but this was one of the hardest wins to come by. The game was tied at 36-36 in the fourth quarter before an 11-0 run put it one ice.
“We know what kind of talent Jamaryn has,” Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. “She had a good shooting effort but has to continue to work on her shot. She’s a streaky shooter but I’ll take 6 for 9, 3 for 5 from 3 and 8 for 10 at the free-throw line. Jamaryn played with a lot of spunk tonight.”
The Bearettes (11-1, 3-0) ran their district winning streak to 57 games. They last lost at Cleveland, 49-40, on Dec. 12, 2014, exactly four years to the day of Friday’s win.
To win, Bradley had to quell a torrid start by East Hamilton’s Madison Hayes, who scored all 10 of the Lady Canes’ first-quarter points. She finished with a game-high 26, including 16 in the first half.
East Hamilton boys 76, Bradley Central 56: The Hurricanes built a 27-8 lead early in the second period before the Bears (5-3, 1-2) finally discovered a scoring touch. They sliced the lead to 39-25 on a layup by sophomore Tray Curry, who earlier in the day received a football scholarship from Tennessee.
The Canes slowed the Bears’ comeback when Deaunte Crawford, Marcus Long and Montgomery made successive layups to push the lead to 45-25 at the half.
When Crawford dropped an acrobatic reverse layup the East Hamilton advantage was 58-34 late in the third period.
That’s when the Bears made their most serious run on the night, scoring 11 straight points, but still trailed by 58-44. The run eventually reached 14-1 and the Canes’ lead was 59-48. Mason Rothwell’s layup capped the scoring spree.
“I don’t think (Bradley) expected us to come out and play that hard,” Jones said. “They fought hard and cut it to 11 points. We were able to stretch it back out.”
Over the final 4 minutes and 21 seconds, the Canes outscored the Bears, 11-3, for the final margin of victory. It was East Hamilton’s fourth straight win in the series. Only the first one was decided by less than double digits.
“This win shows everybody we are for real,” Montgomery said. “We’re a good team and nobody should take us lightly. It was a confidence booster that we can use to our advantage.”
Jamaal Walker scored 12 points for the Canes. Marcus Long had 11 and Morrell Schramm 10.
Bradley was led by Quante Berry’s 17 points, 12 coming in the first half. Curry added 10 points.
The Bears dropped their second straight district loss this week after a four-game winning streak. They lost at Ooltewah on Tuesday.
The Hurricanes will play in a local tournament at Chattanooga State, taking on McCallie on Dec. 27 at 8:30 p.m. The Bears are in the two-day Stone Memorial Classic and will face York Institute and Sacred Heart on Dec. 21-22. They’re also scheduled to play in the Cleveland Holiday Classic on Dec. 27-29.
Bradley Central girls 47, East Hamilton 38: The two squads were battling on even terms for three-plus quarters.
In the first quarter, the Bearettes got three players into the scoring act with junior Anna Walker, who returned to the lineup after missing two games following a foot sprain in the East-West Classic win against Southwind, scoring eight points that included two 3s. Blair hit a 3 and a layup and Kaleigh Hughes (she finished with 10 points) hit a pair of 3s all the while Hayes was punishing Bradley with 10 tough points in the paint. She had 16 of the team’s 27 points at the half.
Blair, who has struggled off and on in the early going, was brilliant against the Lady Canes, scoring 21 points on 6 of 9 shooting. She was 3 for 5 behind the 3-point arc and 6 of 8 at the free-throw line. She added three assists and two steals.
“We came out strong, but had some trouble holding them off from getting rebounds and second-chance points,” Blair sad. “They came out ready to play; we came out read to play and at the end of the day the best team won.”
Once again, the 6-foot Hayes was the spark East Hamilton (7-4, 2-2) needed and responded with 26 points and 14 rebounds – the Lady Canes out-rebounded Bradley 39-25, including 17 on the offensive boards. The Bearettes were able to control Hayes’ offense somewhat in the second half.
“We really didn’t do anything different on Madison Hayes in the second half,” Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. “We just hammered home our game plan, but we weren’t sticking to it very well. Sometimes you go with plan B. Our plan A is the same plan we started with and ended with. After she tied the game at 36, she didn’t score another point.
“East Hamilton shot 47 times and (Hayes) shot 19 times. With the team I have, and the team Hunter has, if we hold her around 20 points I’m not sure they can beat us on an average night.”
The Lady Canes trailed 27-18 in the second quarter and got a McKenna Hayes 3, a put-back by Lacy and Madison Hayes’ off a turnover to slice the Bearettes’ advantage to 27-25 at the half.
Hayes converted a three-point play that pulled East Hamilton to within 29-28 early in the third. Elizia Laboo hit a free throw and Hayes’ put-back gave the Lady Canes’ only lead of the game at 32-31.
“That’s how I’m supposed to play every game,” she said. “You want to beat Bradley Central. Who doesn’t? We tried to come out and do just that. They now know we’re here and not just playing around.”
Said Blair, “She is a good athlete and keeping her off the boards is hard. We needed to box her out and keep her off the boards.”
The Lady Canes were primed for an upset when Hayes’ put-back tied the game up. East Hamilton failed to score again until Lacy’s bucket with less than one second on the clock – six-plus minutes after Haye’s shot.
While Blair’s 3 and two free throws triggered the game-deciding 10-0 run. Cambree Mayo ended it with three straight free throws.
“We struggled down here last year and won by nine points,” said Reuter, who leaves Sunday with his Bearettes to play in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bearettes play Beaverton High School from Oregon on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
“We played them again and won by 27; played them again and won by 30; played them again and won by 43. The next time we see them will be at Jim Smiddy Arena. If I do my job and Hunter does his – and I’m sure he is; I have a lot of respect for him – it’ll be another good game.”
The Lady Canes will participate in a holiday tournament in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, playing St. Francis (Georgia) at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Bradley Central 19 8 7 13 – 47
East Hamilton 10 15 7 6 – 38
Bradley Central (47) – Kaleigh Hughes 10, Roberts 2, Jamaryn Blair 21, Anna Walker 11, Lombard, Reuter, Barnes, Mayo 3.
East Hamilton (38) – Patton, Evans, Lacy 4, Madison Hayes 26, Laboo 3, Mc. Hayes 5, Seder, Petitt.
3-Point Goals – Bradley Central 9 (Hughes 3, Blair 3, Walker 3), East Hamilton 1 (Mc. Hayes 1).
Bradley Central 7 18 19 12 – 56
East Hamilton 26 19 13 18 – 76
Bradley Central (56) – Boyd 5, Clark 5, Tray Curry 10, Whaley, Ferguson 1, Wesley, Rothwell 9, McCleary 3, Greene 6, Smith, Davis, Quante Berry 17.
East Hamilton (76) – Johnson, Jamaal Walker 12, Cam Montgomery 35, Morell Schramm S. Randolph, Rogers, Marcus Long 11, D. Randolph 4, Eller 2, Pendleton, Gay, Crawford 4, Shropshire.
3-Point Goals – Bradley Central 3 (Greene 2, Boyd 1), East Hamilton 7 (Montgomery 6, Long 1).
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)