HAMILTON — The best defensive performance of the season for the Lakota East High School boys basketball team turned into Hamilton’s worst offensive outing.
“We’ve had some long, grueling practices,” Thunderhawks sophomore Trey Perry said. “We’ve just been locked in all week — focusing on our defense.”
And it worked.
Perry scored a team-high 16 points, and Lakota East snapped Hamilton’s three-game winning streak with a 54-31 Greater Miami Conference victory on Tuesday night at the Hamilton Athletic Center.
“The hope is that your defense influences their offense,” Thunderhawks coach Clint Adkins said. “I thought we did that pretty well tonight.”
Lakota East senior Lebron Bennie-Powell scored 12 points, while senior Julian Mitchell had nine points and junior Derek Jackson pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
Senior Kayden Meadows came off the bench and contributed eight points and four rebounds for Lakota East, which moved to 5-6 overall and 3-3 in the GMC.
“Guarding has been the emphasis for the last month for us,” Adkins said. “We’ve got a young and inexperienced team, and they have to learn how to compete on the defensive end for 32 minutes.
“To win in our league, you better learn how to guard.”
Senior Cooper Matthews bucketed a game-high 21 points for Hamilton, which shot just 3 of 17 (17.6%) in the first half and was held to its fewest point total all season on Tuesday.
Hamilton coach Kevin Higgins said his Big Blue couldn’t find a rhythm in the early going as they fell to a quick 9-0 deficit.
Perry scored seven of his 11 first half points in the first two minutes, and the Thunderhawks led 12-6 after one quarter.
“They played well. I had an idea that that’s how they would defend us,” Higgins said. “One of our struggles is guard play in high-pressure situations, which doesn’t help us going into Princeton on Friday. That’s something we have to try and keep getting better at.
“They beat us in every category,” Higgins added. “We just couldn’t get going.”
Matthews dished a pass to Andrea Holden, who slammed one home to bring Big Blue’s deficit back to six at 14-8 with 5:20 left in the second quarter.
But that was as close as Hamilton would get.
The Big Blue had a 6-2 spurt to start the third quarter, and then the Thunderhawks finished the period on a 9-2 run to keep things separated.
“We just couldn’t maintain anything,” said Higgins, whose squad slipped to 5-4, 2-4 GMC. “We did a poor job defensively, and we probably just should have stayed with our base defense a lot more and just trusted it.”
Holden finished with six points for Hamilton.
Both teams went 9 of 16 from the free throw line. Lakota East fired 21 of 41 (51.2%) from the floor.
“I thought we had four unbelievable days of practice,” Adkins said. “For the guys to carry over a practice into a game situation, that’s where I was really proud of them. I could tell that they were locked in based on their communication and taking away their reads.
“It all started with our defense and getting some pressure on the basketball,” Adkins added. “We didn’t settle for bad shots and remained patient on the offensive end.”
Both teams get back to action on Friday. Hamilton hosts Princeton, while Lakota East welcomes Colerain.