WINONA LAKE – The speed and size of Hamilton’s boys basketball team eventually caught up to Lakeland Christian Academy Saturday night.
After keeping pace with Hamilton for about 10 minutes of the game, a sudden burst by the Marines was the start of an eventual 69-33 win for the visitors.
Unintimidated by the overall size of Hamilton, which stood 6’1″, 6’2″ and 6’4″ across the front, LCA ran through them early on. Breaking the Hamilton press, the Cougars only hurt themselves with open misses. Trailing just 18-15, however, LCA ran into a wall and Hamilton capitalized.
Colton Rose and Baylee Fifer both drained threes followed by an and-one by Jack Hill. Suddenly, that one-possession swinging gate became a 27-16 Hamilton lead. And the snowball just kept rolling downhill.
“In the previous games, pressure got to us big time, and so we needed to expect that teams will pressure us until we show we can handle it,” began LCA head coach Chris Hohm. “So we really prepared for that, and the guys showed at the start they could handle it. Deliver that first punch so to speak.
“We played a fantastic first half, but in the second half that all disappeared. We got tired. And I think we learned that you can’t just spend everything in the first half and hope to get by against teams in the second half.”
After just eight points in the first quarter, Hamilton exploded for 47 combined points in the second and third quarters. Rose dropped 16 points in the two quarters and 19 points overall to lead all scorers. Fifer and Hill both finished with 13 points apiece as the Marines led by double digits the entire second half after opening the third quarter with a bucket.
LCA did what it could to keep afloat, but could not find the bottom of the bucket in the third quarter. Scoring a paltry three points after intermission, a lone three by Jon Harmon, Hohm’s worries about offensive efficiency were ever present.
“For as much as we ran into trouble with their press in the second half, we didn’t move well offensively in the second half, either,” Hohm said. “Their defense got a lot tighter, but we didn’t help ourselves turning the ball over.”
Harmon led the Cougars with 12 points, aided by three from deep. Connor Blum, who was bumped all over the court by the physical Marines, ended up with 11 points. LCA were also without the services of Noah Twombly, adding to the misery. Twombly is expected to be back next week.
Hamilton, which earned its first win in four tries this season, will host Fremont next Saturday while LCA falls to 0-3 with a home date Tuesday against Benton Home School.
“Part of what will help us is having two players coming back, but our rotation will change,” Hohm said of the upcoming schedule. “We also are just continuing to build the idea of being committed to the program and buying into getting better and taking ownership of what we are trying to do here.”