Hamilton clinches second straight crown
This wasn't the same atmosphere as last year, when the Hamilton girls basketball team won a conference title for the first time. This season, after the Chargers sealed at least a share of the Greater Metro crown with a 45-32 win over Brookfield Central on Feb. 12, there was no wild celebration, net cutting or fans lingering for 45 minutes thereafter.
This time, the work isn't even finished.
The Chargers weren't ever really threatened against the Lancers in a complete performance that moved Hamilton to 20-1 overall and 13-0 in the GMC. The Chargers now turn their sights to an outright crown, with a battle against Divine Savior Holy Angels, a team one game back in the loss column, awaiting Feb. 21.
"We were prepared for Brook Central," said Hamilton guard Hannah Menzia, who led the Chargers with 13 points."We knew who their shooters were, and we got out on them. We know they drive baseline, so we worked on that. We got the scouting report done and worked really hard in practice."
Menzia and her teammates had their own baseline jumpers working well, with Central focusing its defensive attention on stopping Chargers post Mackenzie Latt. Freshman Taylor Klug added a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to help her team grab a 16-10 lead after the first quarter, and the edge swelled to 24-14 by halftime even though Latt missed most of the quarter with a bloody nose.
The Chargers were already playing without defensive standout Robyn Elliott, who went through warmups on an aching knee but never checked into the game. Forward Jenny Shernell has already been lost for the year.
"I cannot give enought credit to our bench," Hamilton coach Dan Carey said. "Sarah (Thompson) steps in there and does her job and Tristen (Hayes) just keeps battling. That's been us all the year. With the injuries and everything going on, players have had to step forward. Whether it's starting a couple games or playing meaningful minutes, that's only going to benefit us down the stretch."
Emily Kneer was the late sub into the starting five for Elliott, and she hit the first basket of the game. Latt returned for the second half and finished with 12 points, and the Lancers were never closer than 11 points in the second half.
Lydia Rohde scored 13 for Central.
"I want us to be more competitive," Central coach Dan Wandrey said. "What would they do at the end of the game against us if it's a one-point game? I don't know. We don't get close to that. These experiences (against top teams) have not been a great teaching tool for our team. We have six losses, and every team we lost to is ranked in the top five in the state.
"But to give you an example, we played Eisenhower on a Tuesday and Hamilton on Friday (in the first meeting), and it was 24-7 at halftime against Hamilton, so losing to Eisenhower didn't teach us. If we walk out of the gym and lose to Hamilton by 7 in a hard fought battle after losing by 25, then I can say it did us some good. But it didn't."
Rohde and Sarah Fotsch (12 points) accounted for all of their team's field goals in the first half and accounted for all but two field goals in the game.
"When you play good teams, you can't expect your two top kids to score all the points," Wandrey said. "You're trying to get them to get the ball to your really good kids, but you can't handcuff yourself."
Menzia stated the obvious: the second straight conference title is sweet, but not as sweet as it would be with an outright crown.
"We can celebrate tonight, but we're back in the gym tomorrow," she said. "We still have bigger goals to accomplish, and we have a week of practices before we play again."
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