In Tuesday night’s MurMaid Mattress Thanksgiving Classic at Walker Valley, the Bradley Bears could not contain the bigs on the Hamilton Hawks squad, as the Bears simply did not have enough height to body up with the Hawks.
“Their smallest starter was as tall as our biggest guy on the team; they are long and athletic. In the end, the game was more a result of their height winning the game, rather than us being outplayed,” Clark said.
The first half saw Bradley hang tough with the Hawks, as the first two quarters in the match were marked by a series of runs for both teams.
Early on, the Hawks employed a strategic 2–3 defensive zone scheme; in addition Hamilton also implemented a series of suffocating full-court presses on Bradley.
Despite the inundation of a 2–3 zone, the Bears were able to find penetration and passing lanes in the Hawks defense, as the Bears would trail 18-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Heading into the second quarter it seemed as if the Bears had finally found their offensive stride, going on a 9–0 run right out of the gates.
In addition, the Bears’ defense, despite their size, was able to put together a string of stops against their taller opponents.
“We play excellent ball side and strong-side defense. The guys played so hard tonight, they were all over the floor for any and all loose balls, and held their best offensive player to only two points in the first half,” Clark said.
The two teams would trade basket for basket for the remainder of the half, with junior Daniel Clark leading all Bears with six points.
Bradley would trail the Hawks by five points heading into halftime, as the score would read 31-26.
From the outset of the third quarter, the Hamilton Heights Hawks employed a new defensive strategy, by turning away from the 2-3 zone and switching to a man defense.
This defensive switch threw a wrench into Clark’s coaching plans, having extensively game planned for the zone.
“We concentrated almost solely on planning how to combat a 2-3 zone in practice this week, but we completely forgot to go over what to do against a switching man defense,” Clark said.
Bradley would only muster six points in the third quarter, while the Hawks would put up 17.
It was in the paint where Hamilton Heights found its rhythm. Led by their standout center Abdulhakim Ado, the Hawks went into the paint early and often.
Ado, a 6-foot-11 sophomore from Nigeria, who is already being recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Georgia and Tennessee Tech, poured in 41 points to lead all scorers.
“We really just forgot to play the post man tonight, (Ado) scored 41 in the post, which is really a result of a lack of size and defensive awareness on our behalf,” Clark said.
Trailing 48-32 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears put forth a valiant comeback effort.
The Bears would outscore their opponent 26–24 in the quarter, but came up short when the final buzzer sounded.
Despite the loss the Bears had three players score in double digits, as Logan Cox, Cole Copeland and Taylor Bentley reached the double-digit mark.
“It was an all-around team effort tonight; no one player was more important than any other player. In the end it was just hard to match up with such a large team, because as I said, size matters,” Clark said.
With the loss Bradley moves to an even 2-2 in the early going of the season, and will look to avenge their Tuesday night loss on Wednesday, as they will face the No. 4-ranked Hardin Valley Hawks.
HAWKS 72, BEARS 58
Hamilton Heights 18 13 17 24 — 72
Bradley Central 12 14 6 26 — 58
Hamilton Heights (72) — Abdulhakim Ado 41, Duran 6, Nauseda 6, Vatikus 6, Jugovic 6, Balogun 7, Rokuic.
Bradley Central: (58) Taylor Bentley 16, Logan Cox 12, Cole Copeland 11, Clark 8, McCurdy 4, Morgan 4, Maroon 3, S. Parker, P. Parker.
3-point goals: Hamilton Heights 2 (Vatikus, Balogun); Bradley Central 6 (Bentley 2, Cox 2, Copeland, Maroon).
Records: Hamilton Heights 6-0, Bradley Central 1-3.