It took two overtimes, but Hammond broke its dry spell in close games Thursday.
The Golden Bears made 10 free throws in the second overtime and held off a relentless Howard squad for a 65-64 victory. Coming into the game against the Lions, Hammond had lost three games in the past two weeks by a combined six points.
"The guys have done a good job of staying positive through some tough times and they showed some toughness tonight," Hammond coach Karl Friedheim said. "We made the plays we needed to at the end."
The trio of Brian Green (22 points), Duane Echols (19) and James Turner (14) were at the forefront all night for Hammond, helping overcome a couple of big nights from Howard seniors James Bartnik (22 points) and Michael Alexander (21).
The game was back and forth the entire first half, with the lead changing hands 11 times before Hammond closed the half with six straight points to take a 25-20 lead into the break.
Then to open the third quarter, the Bears kept their momentum going by holding the Lions without a point for four straight minutes. During that time, Hammond opened up its largest lead of the game, 30-20.
Before dealing the knockout blow, however, Hammond (7-10, 8-12) watched Howard (5-12, 5-15) claw its way back into it. The Lions closed the quarter on a 9-2 run and then scored six of the first seven points in the fourth quarter to retake the lead, 35-33.
"We're still searching for that consistency … it's a definite work in progress," Friedheim said. "We did some good things to get that 10-point lead and then, instead of keeping it going and putting them away, we let them right back in it.
"(Howard) deserves some credit, but we also need to show that killer instinct."
Over the final five minutes of regulation, the lead changed hands another three times before the two teams ended up tied at 43 as the fourth quarter ended.
In the first overtime, following two foul shots from Echols, Hammond seemed in great shape to close things out up three points, 52-49, with seven seconds left.
But, out of a timeout, Alexander got the ball and sank a 3-pointer as time expired to force overtime No. 2.
Howard's Bartnik scored nine of his points in the second extra period, yet in the end Hammond simply wasn't to be denied. Two foul shots by Rasheed Lashley put the Bears ahead early in the period by two and they never trailed again. Hammond made 10 of 14 from the line over the final three minutes.
Hammond 65, Howard 64 2OT
Ha (7-10, 8-12): Green 22, Echols 19, Turner 14, Lashley 6, Woodland 4.
Ho (5-12, 5-15): Bartnik 22, Alexander 21, K. Hawkins 11, Marsh 4, Dyer 3, J. Hawkins 3.
Half: 25-20 Ha; End of Reg: 43-43; End of 1st OT: 52-52.
Oakland Mills 49, Mt. Hebron 46
OM (6-11, 8 -12): Manns 28, Tapscott 6, Bradley 4, Zayatz 4, Dent 3, Lee 2, Zayatz 2.
MH (8-9, 9-9): Gilmore 13, Jenkins 9, Mohilchock 8, Shade 8, Woodard 6, Dohner 2.
Half: 29-24 MH.
Long Reach 67, Atholton 57
Senior Kevin Leconte had a career-high 14 points to go with seven rebounds to lead the Lightning back from a six-point halftime deficit.
LR (10-7, 11-9): Hargrove 14, Leconte 14, Nowlin 14, Brown 8, Taylor 7, Stewart 4, Allmond 2, Nwankwo 2, Ross 2,
A (9-8, 12-8): Stephenson 30, McMahon 12, Fitzpatrick 3, Acker 3, Bernetti 2, Courtney 2, Martin 2, Shapiro 2, Haas 1.
Half: 31-25 A.
Wilde Lake 52, Reservoir 50
WL (12-5, 15-5): Dante Garner 15, Devaughn Garner 12, Barnes 11, Mynatt 5, Williams 4, Handy 3. McNeel 2.
Re (8-9, 10-10): Toler 17, Christian 11, Booth 9, Jackson 5, Sponsky 4, Usher 2, Epps 2.
Half: 29-20 WL.
Chapelgate 49, Severn 47
Ch (7-10, 12-15): Frierson 9, Lawrence 3, Harris-Winn 13, Obi 13, Grandy 8, Sikka 3.
S: Manis 3, Ryan 14, Burton 10, Siegrist 8, Collier 4, Van Callaghan 3, Crabtree 5.
Half: 26-24 S.
Glenelg Country 73, St. James 44