Hammond nearly pulled off a major upset in the openin round of the seventh annual Wes Unseld Holiday Basketball Tournament at Catonsville Community College yesterday.
Instead, No. 13 Broadneck, which has won four of the previous six tournaments, upped its intensity in the fourth quarter and nipped the Bears, 60-56. The Bruins will face Woodlawn, a 59-38 winner over Randallstown, in tonight's championship.
Kris Jefferson (12 points) of Hammond hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to pull Hammond within 58-56.
But Jason Smith's two free throws with nine seconds left clinched it for Broadneck (4-0). Smith, who was averaging 25 points, led all scorers with 23. He sank four three-point shots.
From the start it was a different game from last year's, when Broadneck scored the game's first 21 points and crushed Hammond by 33 points.
Last night, using a full-court press, the Bears forced Broadneck into turnovers on the Bruins' first four possessions and jumped to a 13-2 lead. Broadneck never solved the press by the quicker Bears and Broadneck made 27 turnovers, 13 in the third quarter.
"If you take away their press, then our game plan flowed the way we anticipated, because we played well in our half-court offense," Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek said. "We just weren't on an emotional high and didn't play as hard as we needed."
Hammond, however, did find that emotional level. "It was the hardest we've played all year and it was important for our confidence to play well against a good team," Hammond coach Jack Burke said. "This would have been the biggest upset in the history of our school."
For a while in the fourth quarter it looked like Hammond (1-3) would win. Mike Matthews made a layup off a rebound giving Hammond a 50-49 lead with 2:45 left.
And Kelvin Stevens sank a three-point shot with 1:50 to play that put Hammond ahead, 53-51. But Smith drove and scored for the Bruins, and Bill Kupina (14 points) dropped in two free throws to put Broadneck ahead, 55-53, with 58 seconds left.
"If we play like this against Woodlawn then we won't even be in the game," Kazmarek told his players.