HAMMOND — NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell used to say: it's better to be lucky than good.
On Saturday night, Hammond was both.
The Wildcats survived 18-for-33 foul shooting to hold off West Side, 52-40, in the Class 3A Hammond Sectional championship.
Junior guard Amiri Young, who had 16 points for Hammond, shot 7 of 13 in the fourth quarter when his team was 11 of 22.
"But I hit two at the end of the game," Young said. "Maybe we were tired, I don't know. But our confidence is through the roof. Everyone on this team has got some dog in 'em."
Hammond (19-5) plays Culver Academy (19-6) in Game 1 of Saturday's LaPorte Regional.
"We practice free-throw shooting all the time," coach Larry Moore Jr. said. "Maybe we were a little nervous, a little fatigued, but our kids never stop fighting.
"They believe they're supposed to win."
Hammond beat the Cougars 66-60 on Dec. 8. West Side had won 20 of the previous 26 meetings.
Manny Anderson, a 6-foot-4 senior with the rebounding fervor of a Charles Barkley, had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead both teams.
"I score when I can," said Anderson of his six points. "But on the boards, my attitude is 'This rebound is mine; the team owns the glass.'
"We wanted this bad."
Hammond had won 32 sectionals, but none since 2005.
"I was a little boy then," Anderson chuckled.
Hammond matched George Green's 19-5 record of 1997-98, while this is the first winning season for West Side (13-10) since 2012-13.
"We play as a team. There's not one superstar on this team," Anderson said. "Everybody contributes."
Emmanuel Calhoun's 15 points topped the Cougars, who were held to 10 points in the middle two quarters. Teionte Mitchell had 11.