If the last six-and-a-half minutes of Tuesday night's opener is any indication of what the Hampshire girls basketball team is capable of then there is a lot to look forward to this season.
The Whip-Purs had just squandered a 5-point lead and fell behind 30-29 before rallying back with 14 unanswered points to close out the game as they knocked off host Hoffman Estates 43-30 in first round action of the 5th Annual "Pilgrim Classic" Thanksgiving Tournament.
MacKenzie Rasmussen started the run with a steal and layup to give Hampshire a 31-30 lead. The Whip-Purs' defense forced 8 turnovers down the stretch.
"It all started with our defensive energy," Hampshire coach Mike Featherly said. "We were flying around the court toward the end of the game. Early on we had the typical opening game jitters, but I really liked the way we kept competing. We graduated a lot of experienced players, so this was a great start for our younger players."
Ally Cermak spearheaded the defense down the stretch with 3 steals. She also had a 3-point basket and 3 free throws in the fourth quarter. She finished with 11 points in the game.
"We were able to push through it at the end with our defense," Cermak said. "We were getting good pressure on the ball and we were able to come up with some steals. It's an encouraging win and we feel things are only going to get better."
Hampshire freshman Kelby Bannerman made her presence felt in her first varsity action with a team-high 14 points.
"She did a real nice job," Featherly said. "She has really picked up the offense quickly. One of the things I really like about her is she keeps moving from play to play. There's no letdown at all."
The 6-foot Bannerman showed her versatility by twice beating her defender off the dribble on drives to the basket for layups. On her other two baskets she scored in the post and on a cutter down the lane. She was also 6 of 7 from the free throw line.
"I was super excited," Bannerman said. "We worked together great as a team. We just kept motivating and pushing each other."
Hoffman had a decisive size advantage inside, but couldn't take advantage of the mismatches enough especially down the stretch when Hampshire started to press. The Hawks scored 16 of their 30 points in the post, but shot just 14 of 53 (26 percent) from the field.
"We made a few mistakes when they started to press us and got a little rattled," Hoffman Estates coach Mike Koester said. "Our inside game is our bread and butter, but they got us away from that at the end. It's some thing we can learn from. We are still pretty excited about the season. We have a great group of kids."
Berry Chukwuyem had 10 points to lead the Hawks in scoring.