MONROE — As excited as he was to earn his first career coaching victory Tuesday night, Justin Clemmons was more thrilled for his players.
“It doesn’t feel good for me — it feels good for the girls,” the first-year Monroe High School girls basketball coach said. “I’m happy for them. They’ve worked really hard for this one.”
Jordan McComas scored a game-high 16 points, Saffron Weidner pitched in with 15 and the host Hornets used an 11-3 run in the fourth quarter to beat the Hamilton Big Blue 50-39 in a season opener.
A boisterous Clemmons — who took over the Monroe program following Chad Adolph’s departure to Loveland — watched his Hornets gradually pull away in the final eight minutes of a game that didn’t see a lead by more than five points through the first three quarters.
“We told them that they did the work that they’ve put in,” Clemmons said. “Yeah, it’s cool for me. But I’m really excited for them that they get to start their season with a W.
“We talk about we win games in the fourth quarter. We know the style that we play. We’re going to have a lot of close games. So, we’ve got to close it out.”
Weidner and McComas went a combined 10 of 12 from the free throw line, which was the decider down the stretch.
“This was big,” said Weidner, a senior. “We were just feeling really excited to get the first game in, to get that win and go to the next one.”
Sophomores Brookelyn Murrell and Korrine Jones each bucketed 10 points to pace Hamilton, fired just 26.5 percent from the floor.
“Obviously I felt like that should have been ours,” Big Blue second-year coach Ciera George said. “We worked hard and didn’t get the foul calls we wanted. It is what it is. We’re going to go back to the lab.”
Hamilton showed an upbeat, quick tempo early on, but Monroe found a way to match up against it in the final two quarters.
“We just have to be able to adjust, and we will,” George said. “We’re going to get better as the season goes on. … I’m proud of them. There’s no reason for them to hang their heads at all. They did wonderfully. We’ve just got to be able to finish a basketball game. That’s really what it comes down to. We’re going to learn as we go. We’re still young.”
The game was tied 10-10 after the first quarter and 19-19 heading into the half. The Hornets — which outscored the Big Blue 31-20 in the second half — distributed the ball well, getting 13 assists on their 18 made field goals.
“It’s easy to buy in to stuff that we’re saying when success comes,” Clemmons said. “Success will help with that. It’s great to see their hard work pay off.”
Clemmons said having the Monroe pep band in attendance was an added plus, which added to the home-court advantage.
“I thought we had a great environment,” Clemmons said. “We were packed out on our end. It’s a GMC win. That’s a cool win.”
Monroe (1-0) travels to Franklin on Thursday, while Hamilton (0-1) visits Middletown on Saturday.