HAMILTON — Davis Avery displayed a hot hand during Hamilton’s practice on Thursday.
Thankfully for the Big Blue, it carried over into their Greater Miami Conference game on Friday against Butler County-rival Middletown.
The 6-foot senior guard set varsity career highs with 23 points and six made 3-pointers in 26 minutes, including one from the left corner with 1:21 left in the game that gave Hamilton the lead for good in a 62-59 win over the Middies at Hamilton.
“Once I hit the first one, I knew it was going to be a good day,” Avery said after the game. “I’m kind of streaky.”
“He was drilling them in practice yesterday and I carried over,” Big Blue coach Kevin Higgins said.
Senior guard Cooper Matthews scored 18 points in 30 minutes and junior forward Andrea Holden added 11 with 14 rebounds in 28 minutes for the Big Blue, which improved to 8-9 overall and 4-8 in the GMC. They went into the game ninth in the 10-team conference after a 50-38 loss at last-place Colerain on Tuesday.
“That was a tough loss,” Avery said. “Our coaches reset our mindsets.”
The Middies also had three players in double figures, led by sophomore guard-forward Jeremiah Landers with 16 points in 29 minutes. Sophomore guard Chandler Shields and senior guard Izaiah Day each finished with 14 points for Middletown, which slipped to 10-8 overall and 5-7 in the GMC. The Middies went into the game tied with Mason and Lakota West for fifth in the GMC, one game behind Lakota East.
“We knew Hamilton was going to come in hungry,” Middletown coach Kelven Moss said. “They let one get away on Tuesday. Kevin Higgins is a good coach. We knew they’d be well-prepared.”
Friday’s game was a contradiction from the first meeting in the second game of the season for both teams on Dec. 2. Middletown led, 20-2, after one quarter on the way to a 64-40 win.
“It’s been a long time,” Higgins acknowledged. “We just played better in all areas. (Hamilton) did a good job. We competed at a high level.”
“That motivated me,” Avery said. “That first game was awful. We know it’s been a rivalry forever. That was a tough loss.”
Whether the game represents a turning point for Hamilton remains to be seen. The Big Blue is scheduled to play Sycamore at home on Tuesday. The Aviators went into Friday’s schedule in third place in the GMC and beat Hamilton, 48-39, in overtime on January 10.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Higgins said. “We’ve beaten some good teams.”
Middletown’s future is more imposing. The Middies are scheduled to play at first-place Fairfield on Tuesday.
Friday’s game featured seven ties and nine lead changes. Middletown took the game’s largest lead, 43-35, on senior forward Darius Cunningham’s conventional three-point play with 1:56 left in the third quarter, but Hamilton continued to chip away and regained the lead at 53-52 on two Avery free throws with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter. Holden added to the lead with a putback with 2:59 left in the game, but Middletown sophomore guard-forward Michael Maldonado tied it with a 3-pointer from the left wing, setting up Avery’s go-ahead shot.
Unlike the first game, in which Middletown outscored Hamilton, 20-2, in the first quarter and 31-14 by halftime, Friday’s first half featured eight lead changes and four ties before Middletown headed to the locker room with a 31-28 lead. Avery went 4-for-5 on 3-pointers on the way to 13 first-half points, which included 11 Big Blue turnovers, leading to an 11-4 Middletown advantage on points off turnovers. Shields scored 11 to lead the Middies in the first half.
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