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HAMMOND — Three-time defending champion Griffith versus heated rival Hammond for Saturday's Class 3A sectional title might have been the long- anticipated matchup for Region fans.

First, both had to take care of some Friday business.

Hammond did, outscoring Clark 36-18 in the second half for a 78-53 rout.

Griffith will have to take a pass this year after being roughed up by West Side, 68-52, in the nightcap.

"We've been focusing on ourselves and what we do," Cougars coach Chris Biggs said of all the pre-tourney hype. "Not too many people have seen us play and we struggled early closing out games.

"But as the season went on, I sensed we were getting better. We play a lot of kids and they're true student-athletes. They never get in trouble and with that stability, you can build a program."

Hammond and West Side played Dec. 8 with the Wildcats winning 66-60.

Griffith shot nearly 30 percent and had 24 turnovers, giving it 57 in two games. Tim Lawson led the Panthers (14-10) with 24 points. Jake Dye had 12.

The quicker, more physical Cougars (13-9) got 11 points from Guimari Peterson and Chrishawn Christmas; 10 each from Jimmie Washington and Parion Roberson.

Hammond led Clark 42-35 at the half, with 10 of its 12 field goals being 3-pointers. Amiri Young had 17 points, including a falling-out-of-bounds 3 at the buzzer, and finished with 21. Montell Bates had a game-high 22.

"They were just going in," Young said. "We have a lot of guards. Anybody who's hot, we go to them for a spark.

"We're small but we play hard."

Victor Malave had a team-high 18 points for Clark (5-19). Jeremy Shannon was "held" to. 15.

"(Clark) had been playing good ball lately and we knew we had the bodies to wear them down," said Hammond coach Larry Moore Jr. "It was close at the half but we didn't get bent out of shape.

"We are really good 3-point shooters. We knew Clark would play a zone and I want my shooters to shoot."

Hammond (18-5) and West Side will each be chasing their first sectional title since 2005.