HAMMOND | Neither West Side nor Hammond wants to limp into the boys basketball postseason, but a sluggish first half of Friday's season finale left both coaches shaking their heads after the game.
West Side, the 50-42 winner thanks to a double-double by Christian Jacobs, out-rebounded and out-shot the Wildcats, but was slow to shoot early.
"I think we played down to their level," Cougars coach Murray Richards said. "We were walking through the night. That happens sometimes when you're dealing with kids, they think 'Coach, we're just playing Hammond High.' I told them no one will respect you if you go into the sectional with a loss."
West Side went 4-2 in February to finish the season 9-9. The Cougars lost Arnold Wilson for the year in December, and have been forced to adjust the second half of the season.
Jacobs has taken the load of the inside game, evidenced by 14 points and 10 rebounds against Hammond. He scored eight points in a second quarter that allowed the Cougars to take a 22-19 lead at halftime.
"After the game, coach told us we should start out so slow," Jacobs said. "We need to score straight out of the game a little bit more."
Hammond is 1-3 in its last four games, ending the regular season 13-9. The Wildcats are playing without Antonio Poole, lost for the rest of the year to an ankle injury.
Poole's No. 1 was instead worn by Kyle Collins. In the second quarter, Collins looked a little Poole-like with a stretch of eight straight points, including a pair of 3s.
"Not having Poole, that has hurt us, but everyone else, the young guys, are playing a lot better," Wildcats coach Larry Moore Jr. said. "In terms of ball control, Kyle Collins played well tonight."
Without their leading scorer, Hammond had a tough time generating offense, falling behind after being held scoreless just less than three minutes in the second quarter.
The Wildcats mounted a fourth quarter run to pull within three points, but couldn't work past the hump of being out-rebounded.
"I don't think we competed," Moore said. "I was disappointed with our effort and our competition on defense."
Deante' Rias led Hammond and all scorers with 15 points and four steals. Aaron Haggard chipped in 11 points for the Wildcats.
Jare Glover added 11 points for West Side, which had eight different players score.