COLUMBUS — Hamilton derailed St. John's Jesuit's dream of a state basketball championship last night, using precise and conservative offensive execution along with relentless defense in the second half to emerge with a 51-48 victory in the Division I final at Value City Arena.
Tied 26-26 at halftime, Hamilton's eighth-ranked Big Blue (25-2) began to take control by outscoring St. John's 11-4 in the third quarter.
Hamilton then iced things by bumping its lead to eight points early in the fourth quarter, using long possessions to kill time, and hitting 11 of 16 free throws down the stretch when the Titans (23-5) had exhausted all other options but to foul.
The loss prevented a sweep of boys state championships by teams from the northwest Ohio region. Earlier in the day Ottawa-Glandorf brought home the Division II title, St. Henry the D-III crown and Holgate the D-IV championship.
Guard Brandon Lampley led Hamilton with 16 points and Adam Myers-White added eight points plus solid defense for the Big Blue.
“Hamilton played a great game,” Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. “It was a situation of tempo control. They made it a slow-paced game and did a good job of executing what they needed to do. Lampley had a terrific game, they hit their free throws when they had to and my hat's off to them.”
For three quarters, the Big Blue effectively put the clamps on Titan stars Brian Roberts (by Myers-White) and B.J. Raymond, who were held to a combined 12 points until the final quarter and 28 overall.
“Some of it was them, and some of it was us,” Heintschel said. “Our spacing all night wasn't real good. We stood around a little bit and were probably a little impatient at times. We spent a high percentage of our time playing defense.
“If they could have missed a few free throws earlier it would have been real interesting, but they didn't.”
Not until the final 4:50 mark did Roberts break out while desperately trying to bring his team back.
The 6-2 senior, the Ohio D-I co-player of the year, scored 14 of his 18 points during that closing span. But it was not enough.
“They weren't dropping for me and I knew [late in game], in order for us to win, I had to carry us because B.J. and Zach [Hillesland] weren't having as good a night as they wanted to,” Roberts said. “I took it upon myself to try to finish the game out and leave it all on the floor.
“But Hamilton's a great team and they made their free throws in the clutch. They did a great job of keeping the ball in their ball-handlers' hands during that stretch. They controlled the tempo of the game and I think that's what won it for them.”
Hamilton took its biggest lead at 40-32 on Derrick Huff's 3-pointer from the left wing with 5:17 left in the game, and basically clinched things when Lampley hit the second of two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining for the 51-48 final margin.
Hamilton then strategically fouled Roberts just after the subsequent inbounds pass, forcing a one-and-one free throw situation with 3.6 seconds to go.
Roberts missed the front end, needing that and a miss (with a rebound and putback) to have a chance to knot the score. Huff rebounded and, despite missing twice from the line, St. John's failed to get a shot off in the final second.
“In the second half they had a good game plan and we came out at the beginning lackadaisical and let 'em get up by six points,” Raymond said. “They handled that six points like it was two points.
“They handled it with caution and played great with the lead they had. They didn't shoot unnecessary shots, they let the clock run and made sure they got good looks. Then they knocked 'em down. They played hard and smart and you've got to commend them for that.”
Hamilton was in its first final four in 50 years after beating Columbus South 66-56 in the 1954 Class A title game.
St. John's lost in its two previous D-I finals to teams from the southwest region, falling 62-53 to Cincinnati Elder in 1993 and 59-56 to Cincinnati LaSalle in '96. This loss snapped a 15-game winning streak that began after a 62-52 loss at Value City Arena against Cincinnati Princeton on Jan. 10.
St. Francis de Sales (in 1983), Macomber (1989) and Scott (1990) remain the only three City League schools to win boys state basketball titles.
In a first half that saw nine lead changes, neither team was able to pull away. Hamilton's biggest lead was 12-7, coming on Casey Brooke's 3-pointer with 2:45 left in the first quarter, and St. John's was four points twice, the last on Raymond's 15-foot jumper 1:58 before halftime
Roberts missed six of his seven first-half shots (6-of-18 total) and did not score until hitting a runner from the right baseline 2:39 before the break.
Raymond had 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting, and Hillesland contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Hamilton was 16-of-32 from the field, 13-of-20 from the line and committed just 10 turnovers to St. John's 12. The Titans were 19-of-40 from the field, 6-of-9 from the line and outrebounded the Big Blue 19-13.
“I'm disappointed for the kids, especially the seniors,” Heintschel said. “They had a great year and really pulled things together.
“If this is the worst disappointment they face in life they will be very lucky. They have a lot to be proud of. Disappointment stings, but we just got outplayed today by a team that executed. There's nothing to be ashamed of.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.