SOUTH BEND — Hammond wasn’t looking ahead to Culver Academies.
Sure, the Eagles ended the Wildcats’ season a year ago. And yes, a win over West Lafayette would send Hammond into a Class 3A South Bend Washington Regional championship against Culver, which beat Hanover Central in the first game of the day.
Even when the Red Devils scored the game’s first eight points and seemed to be getting open shots at will, Hammond had its eyes on the prize at hand.
It also had a stifling full court pressure defense in its back pocket.
“I knew I had to get them out of their rhythm and sometimes when you start early (with pressure), guys get comfortable,” Hammond coach Larry Moore said. “I wanted to kind of adjust and see where they were at. That’s why we waited until the second quarter.”
The Wildcats (18-7) pulled away in that second quarter behind a 22-6 run, eventually winning 64-40.
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West Lafayette (16-10) turned the ball over six times in the second quarter and struggled to even get the ball up the floor.
“We wanted to really rush the shooters,” Moore said. “In their (sectional) championship game, they made 13 3-pointers. We knew they could shoot so we wanted to speed them up and kind of run them off the 3-point line.”
The usual suspects turned in big days. Jamar Styles scored 17. Amiri Young had 13. Hammond also had 16 points from sophomore Harold Woods.
“I’m trying to win a regional and then semistate and then state,” Woods said.
The Wildcats last won a regional title in 1954.
“That’s a long time,” Woods said. “We could have that on our shoulders.”