Say one thing for the Hammond Bears. Their timing is impeccable.
Last night at Hammond, the Bears, who lost two tough decisions to the county champion Mount Hebron Vikings during the regular season, turned the tables on Hebron at the most important time.
Hammond clamped down on the Vikings with superb half-court defense, broke open a tight game early in the third period, and pulled away to a surprising 44-31 victory in a Class 2A, Region II semifinal. The victory sends the defending 2A champion Bears (19-4) into the Region II title game tomorrow at Hammond (2 p.m.) against Towson.
Hammond also showed that lightning indeed strikes twice. Last year, after losing twice to Hebron (20-4) during the regular season, Hammond knocked off the Vikings in the regionals, a victory that sparked the Bears to their first state championship.
"I just can't believe the scenario," Hammond coach Joe Russo. "Our defense was phenomenal. They smelled it [the victory] and they really went after it."
The Bears can't play defense better than they played last night. They decided to discard their patented, full-court pressure, since Hebron had burned them in the previous two meetings for numerous backdoor layups and transition baskets. Instead, Hammond stuck with a half-court, man-to-man alignment that was largely responsible for Hebron's anemic 13-for-52 (25 percent) shooting effort.
After the teams battled to a 20-20 tie at halftime, Hebron managed only 11 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, Kacy Williams, Hammond's outstanding junior point guard who has struggled at times offensively, produced her finest game of the season. Williams led Hammond with 12 points, nine assists and three steals. She also grabbed seven rebounds, and did all of it while playing with three fouls for most of the second half.
"Kacy stepped up tonight. She controls things for us," said teammate Tameka Harrison, who scored six points. "The first couple of times we played them [Hebron], it was mental. At crucial times, we weren't there. Tonight, we all stepped up together."