HAMMOND | With a new coach, a distinct lack of an All-American player and a mostly overhauled roster, Lew Wallace is nonetheless back in familiar territory.
The Hornets stung host Clark for the second straight year and advanced to tonight's Class 3A Clark Sectional championship with a 63-51 win Friday over the host Pioneers.
Wallace (8-10) will face Hammond, a 63-52 winner over Roosevelt, for the title at 7 tonight. Wallace is seeking a third consecutive crown.
"We're all really new to this except maybe two or three guys," Wallace sophomore Michael Williams said after scoring all 14 of his points in the second half against Clark. "We came out really intense and wanted to prove ourselves. We just want to move on and start our own history."
A two-year sectional winning streak almost became history, but Williams and his teammates pulled away from a 27-27 tie in the third quarter and ran past the hosts. A full-court press hindered Clark as the Hornets continued to convert turnovers into layups.
"Out pressure was definitely a variable in the game," first-year Wallace coach Melvin Yancy said. "But I think we did some other things well. I think these guys are getting much better."
Charles Cooper led the Hornets with 19 points and eight rebounds, and Keontae Bridges scored 13.
"We've got a lot to prove with an All-American (Branden Dawson) graduating from the program," Williams said. "We needed to step up tonight, and I think we did tonight."
Clark's Nate Wilkerson led all scorers with 22 for the Pioneers (10-12), playing around two bleeds that forced him to switch jerseys.
Everyone else was neutralized by a suffocating Wallace press.
"It's hard to simulate their quickness and speed in practice," Clark coach Joe Delgado said. "Our guys were fighting the whole way, but that speed just kind of wore down on us."
Hammond (8-12) withstood a few feisty barrages by ‘Velt to stay ahead for all but a few seconds of the game.
Drevon King's steal and dunk cut the margin to 49-43 with 5:16 to play, but Roosevelt, which committed 25 fouls, was never closer than six after the first quarter. Hammond is within one win of its first sectional title since 2005.
Levon Hamilton worked the perimeter and the free-throw line for a team-high 16 points for the Wildcats. Michael Peavy and Michael Kirkendall added 14 each with the latter grabbing 11 rebounds.
King and Michael Jenkins posted 16 apiece for the Panthers (9-11).
"It came down to the discipline, and our guys had it tonight," Hammond coach Johnny Ryan said. "We've just got to get guys to understand it's a team effort."