The Hardaway Hawks and Lady Hawks each picked up region victories over Northside Tuesday night, though the games had hardly anything in common.
The Hawks finished off the night with a 80-71 victory over the Patriots in a game that Hardaway took over in the fourth quarter. The win followed the Lady Hawks’ dominant performance in a 60-24 win against the Lady Patriots.
The Hawks trailed Northside 54-47 entering the fourth quarter before clawing back and eventually tying the game 60-60 with 4:30 left in the contest. The teams traded the lead back and forth for the next two minutes, leaving the score again tied 65-65 with 2:41 to go.
From there, Hardaway made the game-defining plays it needed. Orion Lowe’s layup gave the Hawks a 67-65 lead, then Dorian Robertson followed seconds later with a steal and two more Hawks points. Jakhari Thomas quickly got in on the scoring streak, driving inside and adding a bucket to push the Hawks ahead 72-65.
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Northside kept the game in the balance thanks to ill-timed fouls committed by the Hawks, but it was too little too late for the Patriots. Consecutive layups from Robertson and Lowe with under one minute to go left Northside trailing 76-66.
The Patriots eventually drew within five points with 39 seconds to go but were unable to score another point from then on.
Hardaway head coach Kendall Mills said the key to the game was the Hawks’ size advantage, which proved beneficial as the minutes wore down. Thanks to players such as Ahmad Maddox and Tahiem Mabery, the Hawks were able to pull in some crucial rebounds in the deciding minutes.
Maddox finished with a team-high 16 points and 8 rebounds, while Mabery scored 13 points and led the way with 11 rebounds. The two were part of a balanced night for Hardaway, as six Hawks — the others being Lowe, Thomas Robertson and Quentavius Vazquez —finished the win with at least eight points.
“We will manufacture wins the best we can,” Mills said. “We can go with 12 guys. There’s not a real big separation in the skillset. As long as they make a commitment to play defense, we’ll figure it out offensively.”
The Northside loss overshadowed a big night from Jhaquez Anderson, who had a game-high 38 points.
For Mills, the victory against a strong Northside team was a useful early test as the Hawks try to settle in for a long season.
“We can compete with everybody,” Mills said. “As long as they give the effort they gave tonight, then I’m going to be happy, and I think they’ll be happy.”
While the Hawks sweated it out into the final minutes, the Lady Hawks had the luxury of putting their game out of reach early.
The Lady Hawks held a modest 15-6 lead at the first quarter’s end before ramping up its defensive pressure with staggering results. Hardaway outscored Northside 11-0 to open the second quarter, using repeated steals and forced Northside turnovers.
Hardaway outscored Northside 21-9 to go into halftime with a 36-15 lead. After 18 more points in the third, the final minutes of play were nothing more than a formality.
“I feel like we played very well defensively,” Lady Hawks head coach Kelly Ellison said. “Our guards did a really good job of pressuring the ball, and when they got steals, they made their layups. We could have shot free throws a little better, but overall I was impressed with how they played defensively.”
Hardaway’s L’Trinity Eubanks was a major catalyst in the team’s region win. The senior scored 23 points in the victory, many of which came courtesy her game-high eight steals. Eubanks also had three rebounds in the contest.
“She always plays hard, and most of her points came off defensive steals,” Ellison said of Eubanks. “She’s a tenacious defender. We put her at the top of everything we do, and she gets after it.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports