With only a pair of practices with his complete roster, Hammond coach David Ross probably would have liked an easier season opener then the one it played Tuesday.
But the Skyhawks took on Zion Williamson and defending SCISA 2A champion Spartanburg Day – and it went about as Ross expected. Hammond kept it close for about a quarter and a half before Williamson took over and the Griffins defeated the Skyhawks 70-55 in front of an overflow crowd at Seth Milliken Gymnasium.
“Losing is not ever really acceptable, but in order to win, you’ve got to be prepared,” Ross said. “It wasn’t their fault. We had 10 guys that we had practice with for two days. From a preparation standpoint, we weren’t in a position to compete to win this game. One thing I was looking for was effort, and I think we played hard, for the most part.
“I would rather have played these guys three weeks from now, but it is a start. If you have to start with somebody, might as well be the No. 2 player in the country.”
Hammond was just three days removed from winning the SCISA 3A football championship and nine of the Skyhawks’ 13 players played in Saturday’s championship game against Laurence Manning.
Whether Hammond was at full strength or not, it would have been tough to stop Williamson, the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruit. Hammond did a good job on him in the first quarter, mixing up with a zone and collapsing two or three guys every time Williamson went into the lane.
But the 6-foot-7 senior got things going midway through the second quarter. Hammond’s Lucas Prickett hit a 3-pointer to cut the Griffins’ lead to 24-19. But Williamson went on a 9-0 run by himself to put Spartanburg Day up 33-19 with less than three minutes left in the second quarter.
Williamson finished with 29 points on 13 of 21 shooting. He also had eight dunks and 11 rebounds before leaving with 1:47 left after landing awkwardly on his right leg. But Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor said Williamson will be fine.
“He is a hard guy to stop,” Ross said of Williamson. “We told our guys, “Don’t let him get in the paint,’ and somehow, some way, he gets through five people. He is a pretty impressive human being, that’s for sure.”
“Zion made some plays in that spurt that broke it open and gave us some opportunity to have some distance there,” Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor said. “It was our second game, first home game, and we are still learning. Credit Hammond, they didn’t stop and kept playing, and we were fortunate to get away with a win.”
Isaiah Washington led Hammond with 20 points, and Cleo Canty had 10.
H: Cleo Canty 10, Burch 5, L. Prickett 8, A. Prickett 2, Isaiah Washington 19, Lipsitz 5, Wilson 4.
SDS: Zion Williamson 29, Lindsay 6, Killoren 3, Kyle Tracy 16, Brown 9, Foust 1, Braswell 6.