Hamilton High School coach Sean Van Winkle had mixed emotions after his Big Blue boys basketball squad came from behind to beat Northwest on Saturday night in the opener for both schools.
Van Winkle said it was a game the Blue might have lost in past seasons, but junior guards D’Marco Howard and Jaylen Robinson showed leadership down the stretch in leading Hamilton to a 51-49 win at the Hamilton Athletic Center.
“I felt we stayed poised, which is a sign of a good team,” Van Winkle said. “This was a game we would have probably lost in the past, but tonight we made some good plays at the end. We got some stops and hit some shots. We made the plays at the end when we needed to.”
Robinson led Hamilton with 18 points, while Howard scored eight of his 14 in the final quarter, as the Big Blue overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
Northwest hit three consecutive shots to gain a 40-33 edge after three quarters, but HHS ran off the first seven points of the final stanza to tie it, capping off the run on a Howard 3-pointer.
Tied at 46 with less than two minutes left, Howard came up with a big steal and fast break dunk on the other end. Northwest answered with a 3-pointer, but Howard drew a foul on a 3-point attempt with 34 seconds left.
The junior missed the first, but nailed the next two as the Big Blue grabbed a 50-49 lead.
After Northwest missed a pair of free throws, Howard hit another foul shot to put Hamilton up 51-49. The Knights missed a three at the end.
“D’Marco has that ability,” Van Winkle said. “He had a really good game and made plays on both ends of the court. He has the ability to take over a game, and he did for us at the end.”
Just like Van Winkle, Northwest coach Nick Argentati left the court with mixed emotions.
The Knights, who replaced all five starters this year, fought their way back from an 18-7 second-quarter deficit, but missed free throws and costly turnovers hurt.
“I am mad we lost, but pretty happy with the way we battled back ” Argentati said. “We competed, we battled, and except for not finishing the deal and getting the win, I was pretty pleased. This is the most coachable team I have had in four years. They are not the most talented, but they are a hard-working group. If we clean up some little things, the little mistakes, we will be fine.”
Kaleb Williams led the Knights with 18 points and Tyler Murray added 12. Northwest shot 16 of 36 from the field, but didn’t help its cause by sinking only 12 of 24 from the charity stripe.
Hamilton shot 18 of 45 from the field and hit 8 of 15 from the free-throw line. Howard had six boards as HHS held a 23-22 rebounding edge.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday with Northwest hosting Fairfield and Big Blue traveling to Mount Healthy.
NORTHWEST (0-1): Kaleb Williams 6 6 18, Jamique Dogan 0 3 3, Micah Wilkins 1 0 2, Tyler Murray 4 2 12, Steven Grau 2 1 6, Tyre McKinney 1 0 3, Daemon Cherry 2 0 5. Totals: 16-12-49
HAMILTON (1-0): Bryan Henderson 1 0 2, Payton Pennington 1 0 3, Jaylen Robinson 8 0 18, D’Marco Howard 4 4 14, Aquese Gilbert-Davis 0 2 2, Kurtis Reid 2 2 7, Trey Robinson 2 0 5. Totals: 18-8-51
3-pointers: N 5 (Murray 2, Grau, McKinney, Cherry), H 7 (J. Robinson 2, Howard 2, Pennington, Reid, T. Robinson)