Hammond was riding high after whipping rival Mount Hebron in the Class 2A, Region II semifinals Thursday night, and the Bears showed no signs of a letdown yesterday against the visiting Towson Generals.
The defending 2A champion Bears won the regional title and Girls Class 2A, Region II final
earned a chance to claim their second consecutive state crown with a 63-30 rout that showcased all of the weapons in Hammond's arsenal.
Kacy Williams, Hammond's excellent junior point guard, followed her finest game of the season with another five-star effort. She scored 13 points, dished out eight assists, grabbed four rebounds and added three steals.
Sophomore Tiki Nicholson scored a game-high 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting and added four rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Kristen Moraz scored 10 points to go with four assists, three steals and three rebounds. Freshman forward Kellye Townsend came off the bench to score nine points and add a team-high eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Tameka Harrison had seven points and four rebounds.
It was the kind of all-around attack that has worn down most Hammond (20-4) opponents this year. And once again, the attack was sparked by a relentless, pressing defense that, after a spotty first quarter, overmatched the Generals (17-4). Towson committed 28 turnovers, managed only seven field goals, and was outscored in the final three quarters 48-19.
"Defense is the name of the game, and they [Towson] are not used to the way we play defense," Hammond coach Joe Russo said.
nTC Surprisingly, Hammond's defense is the only thing that allowed the Generals to stay reasonably close for a while. The Generals went into halftime trailing, 33-17, largely because they hit 10 of 12 free throws in the first half. But the Bears turned the game into a rout by forcing 10, third-quarter turnovers to take a 50-23 lead at the end of the period.
L Abby Burk and Sarah Weaver led Towson with 11 points apiece.
The next stop for Hammond is UMBC, where, on Friday, the Bears will play an undetermined opponent in the 2A semifinals.
"I don't know how many times I've been asked if we can repeat," Williams said. "I still think we're underdogs. I always think that. There are a lot of things I still want our team to do. The difference this year is that everyone feels they can make a contribution. Everybody is playing their roles."
For the past two games, Williams and Nicholson have stepped up to lead the way. They dominated the Generals yesterday in the first half. Nicholson shot five-for-five before intermission, thanks in part to passes from Williams. By halftime, Williams already had seven assists to go with six points.
After trailing briefly early, Hammond took a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, as Towson hit all six of its free throws to stay close.That didn't last. Nicholson opened the second period with three straight baskets to spark Hammond on a 14-3 run in the next five minutes.
The Bears took a 33-17 lead at halftime, then held Towson to one third-quarter basket. Meanwhile, six Hammond players scored eight baskets in the span.
Hammond already has duplicated one accomplishment. Last year, after losing twice to six-time state titlist Mount Hebron in the regular season, the Bears eliminated Hebron in the regionals and went on to win their first state championship.
"They knew they had something to prove this year," Russo said. "Everybody wants to beat the state champions, and the girls accepted the challenge. Hopefully, we can meet the challenge two more times."