Hamilton High School senior CiCi Riggins, shown with Big Blue coach Harry Phillips, was honored as the leading scorer and rebounder in HHS girls basketball history Friday night at the Hamilton Athletic Center. PHOTO COURTESY OF HAMILTON ATHLETICS

Prep basketball: Howard makes strong return, Hamilton routs Firebirds

HAMILTON — Hamilton High School’s’s New Year’s prospects got a bit brighter early in the first quarter of the Big Blue’s Greater Miami Conference boys basketball game against Lakota West on Friday night.

That was when senior D’Marco Howard reported to the scorer’s table for his first appearance after missing four straight games.

The 6-foot-2 guard, whose 20 points-per-game average still led the conference even after his extended absence, scored a game-high 21 points in just more than 22 minutes, and 6-6 junior guard Trey Robinson logged a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds as Hamilton pulled away for a 74-53 win at the Hamilton Athletic Center.

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“I missed the court,” Howard said. “I missed playing. It was a good feeling to be out there on our home court.”

“He’s a really good player,” Big Blue coach Kevin Higgins said after Hamilton’s biggest win of the season. “Obviously, he makes a big difference. He makes plays other players can’t make.”

Senior guard Jaylen Robinson also reached double figures with 13 points for Hamilton (5-4 overall, 2-3 in the GMC), which has won four out of its last five games. The Big Blue shot 57.4 percent from the field (31-of-54), including 53.8 percent (7-of-13) on 3-pointers.

Junior guard Carter Combs scored 15 points and senior guard Matt DeSalvo added 13 for West (3-6, 1-4), which has lost 10 straight GMC road games since edging Fairfield 56-55 in overtime on Feb. 14, 2017, according to the GMC website.

First-year Firebirds coach Jim Leon started three sophomores and a junior.

“We’re going to continue with that,” he said. “We want to compete, but we’ve got a lot of young guys.”

Hamilton scored 51 points after halftime, almost as many as West scored in the game.

“We played better as a team,” Higgins said. “We passed the ball. We started trusting each other.”

Howard scored the last five points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, of Hamilton’s 10-2 run that left the Big Blue with a 48-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got nobody who can match up with him,” Leon said. “Hamilton’s a very talented team. The last part of the third quarter and first part of the fourth quarter, they just wanted it more. I don’t know if we ran out of gas or what, but we have no excuses. We’ve got to grow up.

“Hey, we’ve beaten two (Greater Catholic League South Division ) teams,” he added.

In the opener of the night’s varsity doubleheader, Chance Gray scored 20 points and Bryana Henderson added 10 as West’s girls team rolled to a 79-34 win over Hamilton (5-5, 1-4). CiCi Riggins was the only player to reach double figures for the Big Blue. The senior finished with 14 points. The Firebirds (10-1, 6-1) have won eight straight games. HHS has dropped two of its last three games.

Both boys teams came out cold from the field with Hamilton going 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) and West 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) in a first quarter that ended with the Firebirds leading 11-10. They warmed up in a back-and-forth second quarter that included five lead changes.

Hamilton, led by Trey Robinson’s 10 points and seven rebounds before halftime, took a 23-22 lead into the break.

Howard finished the first half with six points and two rebounds in 10 minutes, 24 seconds off the bench.

West, which has lost five out of six games, is scheduled to play at Fairfield in the third of three consecutive road games Tuesday before hosting first-place Mason next Friday.

“Hopefully, Fairfield is a team we can compete with,” Leon said.

Hamilton is due to play at Colerain on Tuesday and at Lakota East next Friday.

BOYS GAME

Lakota West 11-11-16-15—53

Hamilton 10-13-25-26—74

LAKOTA WEST (3-6, 1-4 GMC): Kelvin Turner 1 0 2; Charlie Massa 1 0 2; Matt DeSalvo 5 0 13; Brad Groth 1 0 2; Carter Combs 6 3 15; Osean Anuforo 4 0 8; Matt Oehler 1 0 3; Brady Weber 2 0 4; Shane Gladysz 1 0 2; Israel Tshabola 1 0 2. Totals: 23-3-53

HAMILTON (5-4, 2-3 GMC): Payton Pennington 1 0 3; Trey Robinson 9 2 20; Kurtis Reid 1 0 2; Jackson Lewis 0 1 1; Jaylen Robinson 5 1 13; Braedyn Jackson 1 0 3, Ke’Von Burnett 3 0 7; Romello Diablo 2 0 4; D’Marco Howard 9 1 21. Totals: 31-5-74

3-pointers: L 4 (DeSalvo 3, Oehler), H 7 (J. Robinson 2, Howard 2, Pennington, Jackson, Burnett)

GIRLS GAME

Lakota West 24-22-17-16—79

Hamilton 8-7-10-9—34

LAKOTA WEST (10-1, 6-1 GMC): Bryana Henderson 4 2 10; Chance Gray 7 0 20; Dominique Camp 3 0 6; Kailyn Dudukovich 3 1 7; Nevaeh Dean 5 1 11; Jaydis Gales 6 1 14; Sydney Benning 1 2 4; Stella Lukusa 1 0 2; Kylie Zurlinden 2 1 5. Totals: 32-8-79

HAMILTON (5-5, 1-4 GMC): Anna Cardwell 0 4 4; Leah Smith 1 0 2; CiCi Riggins 3 8 14; Kira Ash 2 0 6; Kendal Pfeiffer-Lee 2 1 5; Akira Sneed 1 1 3. Totals: 9-14-34

3-pointers: L 7 (Gray 6, Gales), H 2 (Ash 2)

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