Prep basketball: Hamilton holds on for road victory over Northwest in Higgins’ debut

Hamilton’s Jaylen Robinson drives to the hoop as he is defended by Northwest’s Diego Neri (24) during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. HHS won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Jaylen Robinson drives to the hoop as he is defended by Northwest’s Diego Neri (24) during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. HHS won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

COLERAIN TWP. — Kevin Higgins wasn’t loaded down with anxiety in his debut as Hamilton High School’s head boys basketball coach Friday night.

The normal first-game jitters? Of course. But not much beyond that.

“I’ve been doing this too many years to feel really nervous,” Higgins said after Big Blue opened the season with a 58-52 road win over Northwest. “Opening night is always highly emotional for any team involved. I was a little nervous because I knew Northwest was really good.

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“It’s really tough to win here … we just made enough plays to get it done. It was great to see that we got a lot of people to come out and watch the game. That’s what makes Hamilton special. It gave our kids energy, so I thought it was great.”

D’Marco Howard, Jaylen Robinson and Trey Robinson were the big guns for Big Blue, combining for all but seven of the winning points.

Howard had 21 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Jaylen Robinson had 18 points, four boards and three steals. Trey Robinson had 12 points and eight rebounds.

“We played well in stretches,” Higgins said. “The first three quarters, I thought we defended. The fourth quarter, we didn’t defend real well at all. We’ve got to get better defending inside. We found a way to make some nice plays on offense. We’ve got to get a lot better at moving the ball, but when we do, we get nice looks and layups out of it.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Hamilton High School junior Trey Robinson scores two of his career-high 12 points in Friday night?€™s 58-52 victory at Northwest.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Higgins was known for running the Princeton offense at Lebanon. Parts of it were evident Friday, but he also wants Big Blue to use their speed and athleticism in transition.

“We do want to run and play fast, but we’ve got to be smart too,” Higgins said. “The ball’s got to move with the pass a little bit more. It was a little too much with the dribble tonight. But it’s a big change for our guys offensively from what they’ve done in the past, so we know there’s going to be a lot of growing pains.”

Trey Robinson, a 6-foot-6 junior, scored in double digits for the first time in his prep career. He said the players have offensive freedom in Higgins’ system.

“Coach likes to let us get up and down and run on offense,” Robinson said. “We read what we want. We don’t do a lot of set plays. We just read what we want to do and then just get buckets that way.

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Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins makes a point during Friday night’s 58-52 win over host Northwest in season-opening play. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins makes a point during Friday night’s 58-52 win over host Northwest in season-opening play. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins makes a point during Friday night’s 58-52 win over host Northwest in season-opening play. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“We came into the game pretty confident, and I think we came out real energetic. But at times we slowed down and gave up a lot of buckets. I thought we were going to win by a lot more, but I’m just glad we got it.”

Hamilton shot 35.3 percent from the floor and sank 2-of-14 attempts from beyond the arc. The visitors were much better at the line, converting 20-of-26 free throws.

Northwest was 4-of-8 on foul shots. The Knights shot 55.6 percent from the field after halftime, but couldn’t overcome several clusters of turnovers and a 15-4 Big Blue advantage on the offensive glass.

“The offensive rebounds, that’s a killer right there,” Northwest coach Nick Argentati said. “We made some bad plays here and there, but we battled back against a team that’s supposed to be one of the five or six best in the city. I thought we guarded them in the halfcourt pretty well. For us, there were more positives than negatives.

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Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid drives toward the hoop Friday night during a 58-52 road triumph over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid drives toward the hoop Friday night during a 58-52 road triumph over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid drives toward the hoop Friday night during a 58-52 road triumph over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“Our young guys did some good things tonight. I thought Howard was probably the difference in the game. He was just physically able to get it to the rim against us.”

Keyshawn Bourrage was a strong post presence for the Knights. He made 8-of-10 field goals while totaling 18 points and seven rebounds. Tyre McKinney also tossed in 16 points.

It was still anybody’s game in the final three minutes. Elijah Horton’s driving layup made it 48-46 with 2:38 left, but Northwest could get no closer. HHS ran off 10 of the next 13 points.

“I thought we had some chances early in the second half to kind of build a lead. We just couldn’t finish, and they made some great plays at the other end offensively,” Higgins said. “I thought we rebounded the basketball pretty well in the second half.”

Kurtis Reid contributed five points, eight boards and two steals for Big Blue. Eight HHS players saw action, and Higgins said he never had that many of his varsity guys playing together in the scrimmages for a variety of reasons.

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Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard dribbles under the defensive pressure of Northwest’s Dae’Mon Cherry during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard dribbles under the defensive pressure of Northwest’s Dae’Mon Cherry during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard dribbles under the defensive pressure of Northwest’s Dae’Mon Cherry during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“I didn’t really get a feel for the kids in the preseason, so there was a lot of trial and error tonight,” Higgins said. “The good thing about this group is that I believe we’ve got a high ceiling. Right now we’re just on the floor, so we’re trying to work our way up.”

Asked about his experience thus far at HHS, Higgins replied, “It’s a great place. Anyplace you go, there’s things you deal with. I think that’s life. But I think our kids have been good. They’re learning how to practice and do the right things. It’s a process.”

The Knights will travel to Fairfield on Tuesday, while Hamilton visits Middletown on Friday.

Hamilton 8-16-14-20—58

Northwest 10-7-12-23—52

HAMILTON (1-0): Trey Robinson 5 2 12; Kurtis Reid 2 1 5; Jaylen Robinson 4 8 18; D’Marco Howard 6 9 21; Kristian Walton 1 0 2. Totals: 18-20-58

NORTHWEST (0-1): Steven Grau 3 0 7; Isaiah Loveless 2 1 6; Tyre McKinney 6 1 16; Keyshawn Bourrage 8 2 18; Elijah Horton 2 0 5. Totals: 21-4-52

3-pointers: H 2 (J. Robinson 2), N 6 (McKinney 3, Grau, Horton, Loveless)

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Hamilton’s Trey Robinson goes to the hoop during Friday night’s 58-52 road win over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s Trey Robinson goes to the hoop during Friday night’s 58-52 road win over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Trey Robinson goes to the hoop during Friday night’s 58-52 road win over Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Jaylen Robinson attempts to dribble past Northwest’s Diego Neri during Friday night’s game at Northwest. HHS won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s Jaylen Robinson attempts to dribble past Northwest’s Diego Neri during Friday night’s game at Northwest. HHS won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Jaylen Robinson attempts to dribble past Northwest’s Diego Neri during Friday night’s game at Northwest. HHS won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard cuts between Northwest defenders Steven Grau (0) and Tyre McKinney (3) during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard cuts between Northwest defenders Steven Grau (0) and Tyre McKinney (3) during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s D’Marco Howard cuts between Northwest defenders Steven Grau (0) and Tyre McKinney (3) during Friday night’s game in Colerain Township. Hamilton won 58-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid eyes the basket in traffic Friday night during a 58-52 victory at Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid eyes the basket in traffic Friday night during a 58-52 victory at Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Kurtis Reid eyes the basket in traffic Friday night during a 58-52 victory at Northwest. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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