By Kevin Barry
Co-Editor in Chief
The Hammond Basketball team hit the ground running starting with a promising record of 4-3. After finishing last season with an underwhelming 4-11 and first round exit, the team was looking to bounce back in a big way. Unfortunately they went 2-4 in the six games following bringing their record to 6-7. The Bears then went on to lose 8 straight games, but despite their losing streak they pulled out a blowout win in their season finale against Marriotts Ridge bringing their final record to 7-15. The next step was playoffs.
After sealing off the regular season with a win versus Marriotts Ridge, the Bears started to prepare for their playoff game against Williamsport. The Bears started off hot with a 3 by Senior Nick Wilk and another layup to put them up 5-0. The Bears found themselves with a sizable lead at the end when Brando hit two threes. After two quarters of play, Hammond had a comfortable lead heading into the second half. Coach Sal just kept stressing how important it was to stay out of foul trouble, as several players already had 2 or 3 fouls on the day. The Bears listened and kept applying pressure throughout the third quarter. After three quarters they found themselves comfortably leading by upwards of 20 points. In the fourth Williamsport turned it up and cut the deficit in half. Shortly after Brando and NIck both fouled out, leaving nerves high as the Bears were now without two of their biggest contributors on defense.
Fortunately, after a fierce game the 6 seed Bears were able to hang on upsetting number three seeded Williamsport by a score of 59-46. The unsung hero of the game was the press. Williamsport failed time and time again to escape the Bears pressure in the backcourt, leading to multiple turnovers and easy points on fast breaks. After a short lived celebration, Hammond had to start preparing for their next challenge; the number 2 seeded Middletown.
Despite a less than ideal final record, when asked if he would change one thing about the season Coach Sal said “I don’t think I would change anything, I enjoyed the guys had, and I would run it back with them in a heartbeat”. This really speaks to the teams overall comradery, even in the midst of a losing streak you could always catch the guys picking each other up and cheering their teammates on from the sidelines. Coach Sal spoke about some of the leaders on the team saying “we’ve got some quiet leaders on the team with guys like Nick Wilk and Justin Christian”. Both Nick and Christian while not being the most vocal guys on the squad, lead by example, and showcase their hard work on the court.
The addition of some new faces brought a spark to the court this year. Junior Kamari Fassett, Sophomore Justin Campbell, and Junior Nate Chiatey were all first year varsity players this season, and all quickly made their presence known on the court. Kamari has been a year-long starter averaging 11.1 ppg and 4.1 steals per game. The 6 ‘3 guard showcased his skills early in the season putting up 20 points and 8 rebounds against Atholton. Throughout the rest of the season he has continued to show why he’s one of the top players in the county.
Junior Justin Christian is a 6’5 Forward and utilizes his shooting and playmaking ability to make an impact at all times on the court. Winning player of the week, Justin is a star in the making and continues to show week in and week out how much of a contributor he is to the team. Shooting at a team high 42% from the field, Justin has been consistent year round shooting the ball. His skills were put to the test in a mid season matchup versus Century. The teams were trading baskets all game long when with 4 seconds left, Hammond found themselves with the ball. It was a simple inbound play; get the ball to Justin and let him shoot. Inbounding the ball was Kamari who threw a dot to Justin right beyond the arc. Justin shot his feet and threw up what may have been the most beautiful shot of the season, sealing the game for Hammond 67-64.
After upsetting Williamsport the Bears faced a quick turnaround as they prepared to play Middletown in just two days. After traveling almost an hour away the boys arrived at Middletown to take on the second seeded Middletown. After a fiery first half The Bears were down by just 1. Going into the second half they were looking to prioritize limiting turnovers and playing better defense. Shortly after the half the Bears were up 10 in the third quarter. They had been creating turnovers and capitalizing on Middletown’s mistakes. Unfortunately things got away from them in the fourth, and the game came to a close with a final score of 61-57; with Middletown coming out on top.