Hot start carries Hammond boys basketball past Marriotts Ridge

Coming off a winless season last winter, first-year Hammond boys basketball coach Jeff Bauer understands the importance of confidence for his Golden Bears.

So on Saturday, after a 69-62 victory over Marriotts Ridge in the first game back from winter break, Bauer didn't want to understate the importance of a momentum-building win.

“Every win is an important one, and it's definitely a confidence-builder when you have a team that went through what these guys did last year. It lets them see what they are capable of,” Bauer said. “We got shaky at times down at the end, but the guys made enough plays and free throws to finish it out. It’s a big step when you haven’t had that much success in those kind of situations.”

For Hammond (2-5, 4-6), the win was the team’s second in league play and, when combined with its holiday tournament victory over La Plata, gives the team its first winning streak of the year. Marriotts Ridge (2-4, 4-5), which was led by Robert Davis’ game-high 32 points, lost for the third time in its last four games.

Getting off to a strong start certainly helped Hammond’s cause against the visiting Mustangs. Behind Andre McFadden (25 points) and Dontae Ross (15), the Golden Bears raced out to a 20-10 lead after the first quarter.

“We knew we didn’t want to play from behind, that’s been when we’ve had a hard time this year,” said McFadden, who scored nine points in the opening quarter. “We played hard, got the lead and then stuck to it.”

Marriotts Ridge made a second-quarter push, with Davis doing the heavy lifting. The senior point guard for the Mustangs hit four threes and scored 16 points in the second quarter alone.

On two different occasions, both following baskets by Davis, Marriotts Ridge managed to trim the Hammond lead down to one. But right before the half, Greg Coleman hit a free throw and McFadden drilled his third 3-pointer of the game to help push the Golden Bear lead back up to five.

“I was pleased with the way we came out, protecting our home court in a sense,” Bauer said. “That’s something I had stressed in the pre-game, coming out with a lot of energy, because it was unique circumstances playing on a Saturday in the middle of the day after not practicing for so long.”

Hammond maintained its intensity after the break, never letting Marriotts Ridge get closer than three points in the third quarter. Then to open the fourth, the Golden Bears strung together a 9-0 spurt to equal its largest lead of the game at 12 points, 56-44.

Marriotts Ridge made one final run, getting as close as four points in the final minutes, but ultimately ran out of time.

Going forward, Bauer likes where Hammond is headed. Having played without Ross and fellow senior forward DaShawn Taylor for a couple weeks before break, the Golden Bears are once again playing with a full roster.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do now that we have our full team,” Bauer said. “I think that the second part of the season could be very bright for us because we have the talent and the ability. It’s now just getting all of that to gel together.”

Hammond 69, Marriotts Ridge 62

Ha (2-5, 4-6): McFadden 25, Ross 15, Wallace 6, Wilcher 6, Whong 5, Coleman 5, Taylor 4, Johnson 2.

MR (2-4, 4-5): Davis 32, Caffes 9, Bryant 9, Clipp 6, Stringfellow 4, Skogmo 2.

Half: 35-30 Ha.

Other games:

River Hill 71, Glenelg 51

The Hawks came out of the gates with what coach Matt Graves called their “best half of the year” and never looked back against the visiting Gladiators. River Hill shot almost 80 percent from the floor to create the 42-21 lead at the half.

“The biggest thing that I noticed was that we had a ton of intensity,” Graves said. “To run the offense the way we did, to execute the way we did … it really took me back. Having so many days off after not faring well in our Christmas tournament, I think the kids came out today feeling like they had to prove something.”

Charlie Thomas led the way for River Hill with 24 points, while Mike Titus (14 points) and Gary Sandler (13) joined him in double figures. Matt Hammert led Glenelg with 12 points in the losing effort.

RH (7-0, 7-2): Thomas 24, Titus 14, Sandler 13, Heitzmann 7, Richardson 6, Gabel 2, Schlect 2, Mentle 1.

G (2-5, 4-6): Hammert 12, Oates 9, Napolitano 8, Heigh 5, Richardson 4, Haussler 4, Monroe 3, Morgan 3, Van de Wall 3.

Half: 42-21 RH.

Wilde Lake 54, Howard 42

WL (1-6, 2-7): Groves 25, K. Jackson 13, D. Jackson 7, Ampofo 5, Evans 2, Bowie 2.

Ho (2-5, 3-6): Reyna 13, O’Malley 7, Shuart 5, Savage 4, Dargan 3, Robinson 3, Noble 3, Okoye 2, Avery 2.

Half: 24-23 Ho.

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