‘It’s great for the city’ -- Hamilton tops Badin in first-ever boys hoops matchup

HAMILTON — The matchup had never been played before, but it finally happened on Saturday.

The Badin and Hamilton high school boys basketball teams gave those in attendance at the Hamilton Athletic Center a fun one.

Cooper Matthews bucketed a game-high 20 points, Hamilton fired 14 of 18 from the free-throw line down the stretch and the Big Blue pulled away from the Rams for a 51-41 victory.

“That’s an interesting game to start the season off for both teams,” Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins said. “This was unique. This is a rivalry game.”

Badin played Taft and Garfield every season during those schools’ 20-year existence but had not played Hamilton in boys basketball other than several previous preview scrimmages. Taft and Garfield high schools were re-consolidated in 1980.

“I loved this. I thought it was good,” second-year Badin coach Pat Kreke said. “I think everyone would love to open up the season with an easier game. That way you can work some things out and still get a W. But if they want to continue to play this the first game of the season, that’s fine by me. I think it’s a great atmosphere. I don’t know how many people they had here, but it was wonderful. It’s great for the city.”

Hamilton (1-0) moved out to a 5-0 lead on a Deon’dre Tillery fast-break layup at the 6-minute mark of the first quarter.

Badin (0-1) later strung together a 10-2 run in the second quarter that helped the Rams build a 20-14 lead on Pate Goldberg’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes left before the halftime break. Goldberg, who hit five 3-point buckets in the opening half, finished with a team-high 17 points for Badin.

Matthews, a senior guard, scored the final four points of the first half to tie it at 20-20 heading into the locker room.

“This was fun. We knew it was going to be a big rivalry game,” Matthews said. “We knew it was going to be hard-fought. But towards the end, we put things together better in the second half than we did in the first half and came out with the win.

“When we came out in the second half, we just told ourselves that we were going to make shots,” Matthews added. “It was confidence really.”

Kreke said while his Rams only had a few practices together as an entire unit following the football program’s long playoff run, it still may take Badin some time to find a groove. The Rams shot 6 of 15 from 3-point range and went 0 for 5 inside the arc in the first half.

“We’re not ready yet. We beat ourselves tonight,” Kreke said. “We turned the ball over 10 times in the second half and only scored four points inside the two line. We can’t live and die by the 3. We’ve got to work on getting the ball inside a lot more and taking it to the hole.

“We just couldn’t play a lot of people tonight because they just didn’t quite know what was going on,” Kreke added. “This isn’t an excuse, we just need some more time with these football kids in order to jell as a team. With a couple of practices, you just can’t do that.”

Hamilton took a 35-29 lead into the final frame. Then Badin rallied with a 7-1 run to take the lead, 37-36, on Nick Solazzo’s old-fashioned 3-point play with 4:35 left.

Grant Wissman’s four free throws was all Badin got the rest of the way. Hamilton knocked down 14 of 18 shots from the line in the final quarter to help secure the win.

“We hadn’t shot any (free throws) the whole game,” Higgins said. “I think that’s key. You have the lead, they foul and guys made free throws.

“We didn’t mark well early in the game with the transition and loose-ball scenarios,” Higgins added. “They got good looks, and they were going to knock them down. We did better in the second half of getting to them and playing some more basic principles, especially against the corner 3s. But right now, a win is a win.”

BIG PLAY: Big Blue’s Davis Avery took a charge with under a minute left to play to halt any chance for Badin to come back. Hamilton went on to close it out with a 4-0 run after that play.

QUOTABLE: Higgins when asked about the Badin-Hamilton rivalry, “That was fun. It was good for the kids. I think we also understand that coaches have to treat it as a friendly rivalry, too. The more important thing is that it doesn’t get nasty, and it’s up to us adults to make sure that doesn’t happen. And I think tonight was positive at all three levels. So we will see what happens down the line.”

IN THE KNOW: Hamilton downed Badin 62-56 in the junior varsity contest. Hamilton beat Badin 55-49 in the freshman game. … Both teams get back to action on Dec. 2. Hamilton travels to Middletown, while Badin visits Alter.

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