The Butler County prep girls basketball clash between Hamilton and Ross turned out to be a feel-good contest for both sides Monday night.
CiCi Riggins tallied 30 points, nine rebounds, eight steals and two blocked shots in a 61-43 triumph for host Big Blue at the Hamilton Athletic Center, leaving HHS with a 7-5 record after going 7-16 last season.
The Rams slipped to 1-10, but showed plenty of scrap and some offensive potential after falling behind 18-3 in the first seven minutes.
“The kids are hungry,” Hamilton coach Harry Phillips said. “This time last year, we kind of lazied ourselves around. This team has a different energy vibe about them.”
Big Blue took a 74-29 beating from Mason on Saturday, falling to 3-4 in the Greater Miami Conference. Riggins said it was important to come back strong against Ross.
“We worked a little bit harder,” the junior guard said. “We were just trying to get that game out of our head.”
Kira Ash (10 points, four rebounds) and Makayla Rogers (9 points, 11 boards) were among the leaders for HHS on Monday, and Phillips loved his team’s unselfishness. Anna Cardwell and Ash dished out five assists apiece.
Hamilton didn’t shoot very well (30.8 percent), but earned a 45-40 edge on the boards and totaled 15 assists.
“We’ve had a strong narrative all season that we wanted to rebound and be better passers, and each game we add something to that narrative to make us a better basketball team,” Phillips said. “Tonight, we conformed to the process. We didn’t finish as well as we could have, but we’re growing.”
Ross trailed 43-21 midway through the third period before chopping the margin to 12 five times. The Rams didn’t seriously challenge Big Blue — and they did commit 26 turnovers and shoot 33.3 percent from the floor — but the performance heartened RHS coach Rodney Parrett.
“We did a lot of things wrong, but we did a whole lot of things right that we’ve been doing wrong,” he said. “Honestly, this is the best these girls have come together and played. I didn’t want them looking at the scoreboard tonight. I wanted them to be smiling and having fun.
“I have zero to complain about. Could we have made less turnovers? Yes. Did anybody in this gym expect to happen what just happened? I guarantee the answer is no. If we play like that the rest of the year and just clean up the little mistakes, good things are going to happen. Hopefully this is a turning point for us.”
Olivia Chaney tossed in 19 points and four 3-pointers for Ross before fouling out with 3:42 remaining. Julia Nunn also scored 15 points, and Sydney Shaw grabbed seven rebounds.
“We wanted to get back into the flow of winning tonight,” Phillips said. “But Ross kept coming, and I expected them to keep coming. I don’t expect Ross to just lay down for anybody. I knew they were better.”
A large part of the Rams’ 18-3 deficit was Hamilton’s early board dominance. Ross also couldn’t stop Riggins, the GMC’s leading scorer. She had 19 points by halftime.
Riggins made 9 of 18 field goals and was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. And she felt she could’ve done better.
“I think I’ve developed a lot from last year,” Riggins said. “I’ve been working more on dribbling and the outside game. Last year and the year before, I started in the post looking out under the rim more. Now I’m looking at the rim, dribbling more and shooting more.”
The Rams will return to Southwest Ohio Conference action at Talawanda on Wednesday. Big Blue will travel to Princeton in GMC play that night.
“When you’ve got the leading scorer in the GMC on your team, it kind of gives everybody that little motivation and some momentum to say, ‘Hey, we can make some things happen in the league.’ And that’s what they want to do,” Phillips said. “The teams we’re getting ready to play, everybody’s beating each other. That makes it very interesting after Mason and Lakota West.”
ROSS (1-10): Julia Nunn 4 7 15, Brooklyn Breaker 1 1 3, Olivia Chaney 7 1 19, Sydney Shaw 2 0 4, Korryn Justice 1 0 2. Totals: 15-9-43
HAMILTON (7-5): Anna Cardwell 2 3 8, Miracle Riggins 1 2 4, CiCi Riggins 9 9 30, Makayla Rogers 4 1 9, Kira Ash 4 0 10. Totals: 20-15-61
3-pointers: R 4 (Chaney 4), H 6 (C. Riggins 3, Ash 2, Cardwell)