CALUMET TWP. — Hammond expected a tough game, even if nobody else did.
The Times No. 4 Wildcats headed east on Ridge Road to meet Calumet Monday. Hammond had won seven of its last eight games. The Warriors were on the losing end of four of five.
“They’re well-coached. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game,” coach Larry Moore Jr. said. “They have some good guards, got some post guys. By the time you get to February, everybody’s in a good spot. Forget the records.”
The lead was as small as three with less than two minutes to play. Then, Hammond stepped up it’s defense to seal a 68-58 win.
“We were just trying to put together multiple stops. It was a close game and we just wanted to get those stops and maintain our composure,” Moore said. “We’ve been here before. I have confidence in our guys.”
It was diminutive sophomore point guard Amiri Young who chased down two key rebounds and hit four free throws in the final minute.
“Coach emphasizes getting to those loose balls, those 50/50 balls,” Young said. “It was right there. I got to get there.”
The big bodies in the Calumet post made things difficult on the boards. The Warriors outrebounded Hammond 37-28.
The charity stripe was also an issue for Hammond all night. The Wildcats made only 24 of 43 freebies, but Young hit them when it was most important.
“I was just thinking ‘Up and over.’ Just kept repeating that. I just missed a few (free throws) but anybody can miss free throws. Just keep shooting,” Young said. “We picked it up towards the end and that’s all that mattered.”
The Warriors (6-9) stayed in the game during the first half with hustle, beating Hammond to loose balls and jumping into passing lanes. Calumet had an 18-13 rebounding advantage at the break.
It was 37-37 at halftime.
Hammond (14-3) opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run behind a pair of Montell Bates 3-pointers. It held a narrow lead through the frame.
Malik Miller had 17 points while Immanuel Anderson scored 10 and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Wildcats. Jaylen Sullivan had 15 points for Calumet and Kevin Carr had 14 points and nine rebounds.