Hamilton, Badin set for first-ever boys hoops matchup

Programs have not played since Taft and Garfield high schools re-consolidated in 1980

Badin High School boys basketball coach Pat Kreke recalls from his own playing days with the Rams the excitement of facing the former Hamilton Taft and Garfield high schools. He isn’t sure why that annual tradition didn’t continue when Hamilton re-consolidated into one high school in 1980, but Kreke is glad it is back.

Hamilton will host Badin in a regular-season game for the first time ever Saturday. The matchup opens the 2022-23 campaign for both teams.

“It is strange it never happened until now,” said Kreke, who graduated from Badin in 1975 and now is in his second season as the Rams head coach. “There’s no doubt a lot of excitement about that. It’s long overdue that these two schools start to get together with different sports contests with basketball this year and football next year. The city going in such a great direction, and this is a little addition to it. It will be a good little rivalry in the future, and it will be fun that the boys will be able to play together, with both Hamilton schools.”

Kreke said Hamilton will be “a big test” for Badin, which just got its football players back after the Rams lost last week in a regional final to end their season.

Badin won’t be as experienced this year after graduating three of its top scorers from last season, including its only player to average double-digit points. However, the Rams return Diego DeCello (7.9 points per game) and Pate Goldberg (7.0 points) and added junior Aidan Brown, a transfer from Ross who averaged 12.7 points per game last year and also played football for Badin this fall.

Other football players just joining the basketball team include Alex Ritzie, Connor Wright, Rowan Brown, Drew Enginger and Cooper Ollis, but only Wright and Aidan Brown have varsity playing experience so Kreke said he will be easing those guys into the mix.

“It’s tough for them to get into basketball shape because football shape is not the same,” Kreke said. “You run a play in 30 seconds and you’re off two minutes in football, but basketball is constant. Those boys are not ready conditioning wise to play consistent basketball. It’s also a learning process. Every year things change in the program so to come out and only have a few days with the ball in their hands again, it’s not easy for them. So, they won’t get a lot of time but a couple will see the floor.”

Kreke isn’t even sure how to describe his team yet because the Rams haven’t been together long enough with the full squad to jell. He doesn’t doubt they will be able to build chemistry eventually, and that will have to be a strength for Badin to have success.

The Rams could rely on their defense early on while the offense finds a rhythm and develops more scoring threats.

“It’s a matter of kind of seeing how the kids respond to game situations because they haven’t had much opportunity at the varsity level to be there,” Kreke said. “It will be interesting to see how they react.”

Hamilton is in a similar position with inexperience, having lost three of its top four scorers to graduation or transfer. Cooper Matthews, who averaged 14.7 points per game, returns and coach Kevin Higgins is looking for more production out of returning starter Davis Avery (2.9 points) and up-and-coming forward Andrea Holden, a 6-foot-7 junior who played 10 games last year.

Junior guard Dre Tillery, a first-time varsity player, adds depth at guard.

“I think we’ve got good potential,” Higgins said. “We’ve got some better skilled basketball players overall than last year. They are inexperienced, so it’s just seeing if they can translate that to real games but I’m excited about the talent from 1-10 -- I think it’s a little bit better this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how the guys do.”

Higgins said playing the opener against Badin is a unique way to start the season. While the game counts toward records, normally teams don’t put a lot of stock into the first game because players are still getting used to one another and there’s not a lot of intel on the opponent.

This one has a little bit more riding on it being a local rivalry in the making, and the outside interest could make for a great atmosphere.

“I think the kids are excited,” Higgins said. “We play a lot of good teams, and this is another good team we added. It has historical significance since we haven’t played in a long time, but we can’t overanalyze it. We just have to go out and play our game.

“You don’t usually open with a game of this magnitude so it should be a cool game. I’m sure there’s a lot of interest from a lot of people, so we have to go out and do our part.”

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