Hammond junior Imani Reid talks about the Golden Bears’ 66-28 win over Wilde Lake to close the regular season on Feb. 12.
At the end of a trying final month of the regular season, Hammond pulled together on senior night Monday to play one of its best games of the season.
Nyelle Allen (17 points), Imani Reid (16) and Ashlyn McInerney (13) all scored in double figures to help the Golden Bears start fast and never slow down on the way to a 66-28 victory over visiting Wilde Lake.
Earlier this winter, Hammond (3-13, 6-13) needed a buzzer-beater from Allen to beat the Wildecats. This time, the outcome was decided by halftime.
“Honestly, tonight was about getting all our pieces of the puzzle to stop putting unnecessary weight on their shoulders and instead simply play the game,” said Hammond coach Mona Reid, whose team snapped a nine-game losing skid. “We’ve been having too many players putting pressure on themselves these last few weeks, but tonight everyone brought their strengths and we got the outcome we have been waiting for.
“It was good to see them smiling and having fun again out there.”
It was the Wildecats that actually struck first on Monday, getting a layup by Nicole Wright in the opening minute. But Hammond responded by scoring the next 12 points in a row to take its first double-digit lead of the night.
Imani Reid, who scored five of her points during the early first-quarter surge, said she sensed a different feel about the team right from the beginning.
“[The difference was] most definitely the energy, coming from everyone and not just one person trying to lift everybody up,” she said. “Everyone having the same energy, everyone being on the same page, leads to execution on the floor.”
Hammond led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter and then proceeded to outscore Wilde Lake 12-2 in the second to push the team’s lead to 26-8 by halftime. Another extended push to begin the second half — a 12-2 run spanning a little less than four minutes — officially put the game away.
Allen was particularly big in the third quarter, scoring 13 of her points in that period alone.
Hammond led by at least 30 points throughout the entire fourth quarter.
Looking ahead, Mona Reid hopes the result is what the team needs to hit the reset button and be at its best heading into the playoffs.
“I always talk about that puzzle and how when all our pieces fit, we can be a very tough team. So now it’s just about showing up every night from here on out,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the record is anymore, it’s just about whoever is ready to play that night is going to be the one that moves on.”
Stepping out of county, the Gladiators prevailed against previously undefeated Westminster thanks to an offensive effort that saw five players finish with eight or more points. Jess Foster led the way with 16 points and five assists, while Katie LaPort (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Olivia LePage (11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists) were right behind her in the scoring department.
Other big games for the Gladiators came from Kellie Johnson (9 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals) and Alex Anderson (8 points and 10 rebounds).
After leading by six points entering the fourth quarter, the Gladiators pulled away by outscoring the Owls 19-9 over the final eight minutes.
G (8-6, 14-6): Foster 16, LaPort 12, LePage 11, Johnson 9, Anderson 8, Gillespie 2.
W (17-1): Castley 15, O’Donnell 9, Popelski 8, Roberts 6, Diehl 4.
Playing without two starters, the Lightning still cruised past visiting South Carroll thanks to huge scoring efforts from Kiana Williams (27 points) and Lyric Swann (24 points). Jaelyn Swann chipped in with 12 points as well.
Long Reach was without post players Arianna Briggs-Hall and Haley Thompson, but still was able to open up a 36-21 lead by halftime.
LR (13-0, 15-1): Williams 27, L. Swann 24, J. Swann 12, Streeter 2, Proctor 2.