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HAMMOND — For the first 20 minutes of the game, The Times No. 5 Hammond Wildcats were being dominated by a ninth-grader.

Not just any old freshman.

But Clark's Darrell Reed, a 6-foot-6 beast in the paint.

Reed had 13 points and 11 rebounds at halftime, where the Wildcats held a slim 26-24 lead.

Hammond coach Larry Moore Jr. lit a fire under the backside of 6-foot-4 senior Immanuel Anderson. With the game tied midway through the third quarter, Anderson put his body on Reed's and got six points and five rebounds the last four minutes of the third.

Hammond's depth and athleticism took over as the 'Cats cruised to the 73-44 win in the Great Lakes Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

"I almost always start off slow in the first half," Anderson said. "I knew I had to pick it up. I wasn't overwhelmed. We just thought it was Clark and it was going to be easy.

"But they wanted to win as bad as we did."

Hammond (4-1, 1-0) picked up its 11th straight win over the Pioneers (1-5, 0-1).

Reed finished with career highs of 25 points with 17 rebounds.

"We weren't guarding anybody in the first half," Moore Jr. said. "He was getting easy put-backs. We finally started to push the ball in the second half. They had trouble getting back in transition.

"We got some easy points and it opened up our 3s."

Clark coach Jason Hill said his team is averaging 25 turnovers per game, so far, and he was sure they went above that number against Hammond.

"We knew they were quick, athletic," Hill said. "We knew eventually, at some point, we'd have to adjust."

When the game was tied midway through the third, Anderson had three buckets off offensive rebounds, while Montell Bates and Amiri both his a trey. That 12-0 run broke the game wide open.

But it didn't stop there.

Young had three 3s in the fourth quarter, Malik Miller, Reggie Abram and Elijah Fuller all hit bombs in the final eight minutes.

"(Jeremy) Shannon is really good for them, but we double-teamed him and got him tired in the second half," Moore Jr. said. "When he went out that's when we really started creating turnovers and changed the game."

Miller led the Wildcats with 17 points, while Young had 12, Bates 11 and Anderson had 10 with eight boards.

Shannon had 10 for the Pioneers.

"We talk about it every day," Hill said. "What can we do to get the ball into (Reed's) hands more. He is so skilled, so natural. For a freshman he does a lot of thing really well."

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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.