- Mark Schmetzer Contributing Writer
Hamilton High School’s boys basketball team won’t start learning until Friday whether it can compete in the Greater Miami Conference, but at least the Big Blue knows they would be a Southwest Ohio Conference front-runner this season.
For the second time in four days, HHS came from behind in the second half on Tuesday to knock off a SWOC challenger. Junior guard Jaylen Robinson scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half and the Big Blue knocked down 12 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter while pulling away to a 62-55 win at Mount Healthy.
That left Hamilton 2-0, both wins coming against SWOC teams after outscoring three-time defending champion Northwest 18-9 in the fourth quarter to pull out a 51-49 win on Saturday at Hamilton.
Big Blue coach Sean Van Winkle considers the nonconference wins a sign of progress.
“Both of those teams beat us last season,” the fourth-year coach pointed out.
“The last two games, we had to fight to the end and battle back,” said the 6-foot Robinson, who scored 18 points in the opener. “Tough games like these are good for us early. They’ll help us late in the season.”
Junior guard D’Marco Howard also reached double figures with 14 points and his game-high seven rebounds helped Hamilton build a 33-19 board advantage, leading to a 14-5 margin in second-chance points. The Big Blue also turned 17 Owl turnovers into a 22-16 lead in points off of turnovers.
Howard was 7 of 8 on free throws overall and 4 of 4 from the line in the fourth quarter, including two during a decisive 10-2 run that left Hamilton leading 52-46 with 2:08 left in the game. The Big Blue took the lead for good, 46-44, on freshman guard Kurtis Reid’s two foul shots with 5:02 left in the game.
“We work a lot on free throws, and we had the right guys at the line,” Van Winkle said.
Robinson pumped in 12 third-quarter points to lead HHS back from a seven-point halftime deficit to a 42-42 tie going into the fourth quarter.
The Owls ended the first half on an 11-1 run to take a 27-20 lead into halftime. Mt. Healthy sophomore forward Brandon Lanier scored five of his seven first-half points during the run on a traditional three-point play and a layup following his open-court steal.
“We have experienced guards, but we’re an inexperienced team,” Van Winkle said. “We struggled in the first half. We put it together in the second half. We made some adjustments.”
Robinson scored eight of his nine first-half points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left to give the Big Blue a 13-12 lead going into the second quarter.
Hamilton is 2-0 for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Big Blue haven’t been 3-0 since starting 10-0 in 2001-02.
HHS is scheduled to open GMC play on Friday in the final game at Middletown’s venerable Wade E. Miller Gym. The historic nature of the occasion isn’t lost on the visiting half of one of the state’s longest standing and most intense rivalries.
“That’s what I just told the guys,” Van Winkle said. “We’re getting ready to close down the most historic high school gym in the state. We’re going to be representing 60,000 people, and we’ll try to play hard for them but with class.”
“Our big focus will be going in to get a win and not let anything distract us,” Robinson said.
Mt. Healthy (0-2) opens the SWOC season at home against Little Miami on Friday.
Mount Healthy 12-15-15-13—55
HAMILTON (2-0): Payton Pennington 0 2 2, Jaylen Robinson 8 6 25, Daniel Brunck 1 0 3, Kurtis Reid 1 2 4, Bryan Henderson 0 1 1, Trey Robinson 2 0 4, Cameron Benson 1 1 3, Daveon Williams 2 2 6, D’Marco Howard 3 7 14. Totals: 18 21 62
MOUNT HEALTHY (0-2): JuAries Montgomery 5 0 11, Terrance Johnson 1 0 2, Kaleb Taylor 2 1 6, Aushadon Mathis 7 0 17, Adrian McFerrin 1 0 2, Lonnie Phelps Jr. 1 0 2, Brandon Lanier 6 1 13, Jerwuan Johnson 1 0 2. Totals: 24 2 55
3-pointers: H 5 (J. Robinson 3, Brunck, Howard), M 5 (Mathis 3, Montgomery, Taylor)