If the Hammond boys basketball team has done one thing in its non-SCISA schedule, it’s proved it can play with anybody in the state.
The Skyhawks showed that again Friday night behind 24 points from Seventh Woods and 20 from Xavier McDaniel in a 62-52 victory against a White Knoll team ranked in the Class 4A poll.
The early season stretch has seen Hammond play several high-profile out-of-state teams as well as Hillcrest, Spring Valley, Keenan, Dreher, Eau Claire and the Timberwolves.
“We have a talent level where they want to play against the highest level of competition, regardless of classification,” Hammond coach Mark McClam said. “We want to show we’re just not a good SCISA team but a solid basketball team that can compete against the best the state has to offer.”
One thing the Skyhawks (13-4) learned over the tough schedule is how to finish close games. It helped against White Knoll as Hammond closed the game on a 14-6 run after the Timberwolves trimmed a 10-point, second-half deficit to two on a jumper by Tyquillo Moore with 4:42 remaining.
Woods, the highly touted junior guard, started things with two free throws. McDaniel added two more free throws, and Chevez Goodwin, who scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half, added a hook shot from the lane. Woods added two more free throws to finish off the 8-0 spurt and push the lead back to 10 with a little more than two minutes to go.
Woods was questionable before the game with a sprained ankle, but he turned in another solid performance.
“We’ve been in so many close games and been able to win some of those, so even our younger guys are more relaxed when things are close down the the stretch,” McClam said. “It also helped that we made 23-of-28 free throws, and that’s not something we’ve been able to do. I thought Seventh and McDaniel played great.”
White Knoll (11-5) had to play short-handed when senior 6-foot-6 post player Najee Garvin was suspended for a diciplinary reason. But that didn’t slow the team at the start.
Senior guard Emarius Logan scored nine points in the early going, and Moore added two 3-pointers as the Timberwolves opened up a 20-7 lead. But Woods and McDaniel keyed a 16-4 run to end the second quarter to trim the deficit to 24-23 at the half.
White Knoll was 2-for-9 with three turnovers during that stretch.
“Mentally, when you’re not scoring on the offensive end, that sometimes leads to lapses on defensive effort,” first-year White Knoll coach Jason Cochcroft said. “We went on that long scoring drought and were unable to keep the intensity up. But give Hammond credit. That’s one of the best basketball teams in the state regardless of classification.”
The Skyhawks took the lead and extended it early in the third quarter by throwing it inside to McDaniel and Goodwin on the blocks. They scored all 11 points as part of an 11-2 run that was capped by a McDaniel 3-pointer to give Hammond a 34-26 lead middle of the third quarter.
TheTimberwolves made that one final charge but couldn’t overcome the duo of Woods and McDaniel without the services of Garvin in the middle.
Both teams will enter region play next week, and both coaches said they thought this matchup will be a help for what they see over the next four-to-five weeks.
“I think we’ve gotten better each week and it was to good to get our kids in front of this environment,” Cochcroft said of the near capacity crowd. “We’re going to see plenty of good teams in our region, and this will do nothing but help us down the stretch.”