Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hamilton Southeastern (IN) vs. Westerville South: Game 18

Isiah "Zeke" Rogers of Westerville South. (Photo by OHSH)

Game 18 of the Flyin' to the Hoop was everything high school basketball is and should be about.

Westerville South and Hamilton Southeastern (IL) met in an instant classic inside Kettering Fairmont's Trent Arena on Monday night.

The crowd was electric and the atmosphere was all that and more. The players on both teams were scratching, clawing, diving, and laying it all on the line on every possession.

Both teams were making plays and getting timely stops. It was certainly a game for the basketball purest. It was old-school. It was the way the game was meant to be played.

South and Hamilton played 32 minutes, but needed 36 to settle the encounter. The Wildcats of Westerville South remained unbeaten with a dramatic 63-61 overtime win in front of a large turnout.

"For us, at South, this is a big win," said South senior Traevon Jackson. "It's just one game at a time. We came down here with a little chip on our shoulder because obviously Indiana is a great basketball state that has great players."

They got Gary Harris, Zack Irvin, a guy going to Purdue and their role players are even good. This is definitely a big for win for us. We battled through some adversity and got a big win."

It wasn't easy by any means. Hamilton jumped out to a 14-8 lead after one quarter and proceeded to score the first three points of the 2nd to open up a 17-8 advantage which was the biggest lead of the game for either team.

The Wildcats managed to play even in the 2nd quarter trailing 30-24 as the teams went to the locker room.

"We started the game 0-for-13," Jackson lamented. We like to shoot from outside and in the past when we don't shoot well, we don't do very good. We came out in the second half and got some scoring off of our defense."

South's outstanding senior Traevon Jackson was good in the 1st half, but was great in the 2nd. Jackson along with his teammates willed each other to victory. The Wisconsin signeed scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds along with locking down Hamilton Southeastern star junior Gary Harris.

"It's tough you know," Jackson said when asked if he takes a match up with a player like Harris personally. "I know he is one of the top ranked guys. He is a great player. I don't like to take it personally even though it's kind of personal."

I like to think more about what I have to do. I want to focus on how he has to stop me rather than how I can stop him. I know they are going to have trouble stopping me if I play my game. If I help my team out and we play our game as a team we will be fine. That is what we did tonight."

Harris finished with just four points before leaving the game in the 4th quarter with a cut over his eye. He never returned.

Jackson, who has a very high basketball IQ and terrific ability to lead, didn't act alone. Junior Isiah "Zeke" Rogers came up with some huge plays on defense and some key rebounds as did senior Damarkeo Lyshe and sophomore Marcus Ball. Lyshe and senior Jaren Edward both had some big baskets late in the game.

Credit Isiah Rogers for some huge plays without his play this game is up in the air," Jackson believes. "We definitely had some big defensive stops, Marcus had some huge rebounds, and we got the win."

The relentless Wildcat pressure eventually got to the Royals forcing 23 turnovers accounting for 33 points at the other end.

Senior sharp-shooter Ben Jones struggled to find his range, but still managed to score nine points for the winners. Senior Donnie Fitzgerald also came off the bench and gave good minutes along with scoring a big hoop.

Edwards finished with eight points followed by Ball with seven, Rogers added six, and Lyshe chipped in with five counters.

With Harris struggling to find breathing room, highly-regarded sophomore Zack Irvin began to take over for Hamilton. The lengthy 6-foot-5 bundle of talent posted 16 points in defeat.

Josh Dather added 15 points and five boards and Randy Gregory counted for 11 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Gregory is a Purdue football verbal.

Interesting to note, South was just 4-of-22 from behind the arc which is far below its usual output.