Hampshire rallies in 2nd half to win Marengo title
Talk about a tale of two halves.
Hampshire, which trailed Marengo 30-24 at halftime, outscored the host Indians 33-23 in the second half and captured the 70th Annual E.C. Nichols Holiday Classic with a 57-53 win over the hosts Saturday night.
The Whip-Purs (10-3), winners of 10 straight, lost in the title game to Crystal Lake Central 55-51 in 2018.
In the first half led by six 3-pointers and 21 points from Aiden Smith, the Indians were able to open up a 6-point advantage after 16 minutes.
"We didn't get off to a very good start in the first half," said Hampshire coach Mike Featherly. "We did a poor job of closing out on their shooters from beyond the arc."
The Whip-Purs looked like a different team in the second half.
With Nick Erickson scoring 5 points including a 3-pointer along with a layup from Jackson Millison, Hampshire scored the first 7 points of the second half and took a 31-30 lead with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter.
The Indians (11-2) regained the lead 33-31 on Smith's seventh trey of the game at the 4:55 mark of the third quarter.
The Whip-Purs grabbed the advantage for good on a 3-pointer from Keynan Davis to make the score 34-33.
Hampshire, which outscored Marengo 20-7 in the quarter, got a buzzer-beater from Jeremy Rosa as the Whip-Purs led 44-37 after three quarters.
Hampshire's biggest lead was 53-42 after a basket by Millison.
Marengo made a valiant comeback at the end propelled by 3s from Smith and Brady Cannon and got to within 53-50 with 1:38 left but couldn't get any closer.
Marengo, which was 7-of-10 from 3-point land in the first half, converted only 3-of-7 from beyond the arc during the second 16 minutes.
"We emphasized at halftime that we have to defend the 3-pointer better in the second half," said Featherly. "We got out on Smith better and made him take more difficult shots. On offense, we attacked the basket better and got layups. It was tough losing in the championship game. It is part of the process."
Erickson paced the champions with 13 points, 11 in the second half. The senior forward converted 4 -of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the title.
"After losing in the title game last year we really wanted this one," said Erickson. "It is an amazing feeling to win this tournament. It was a great comeback. Coach Featherly stressed we needed to defend the 3 better the second half and get to the basket more."
Millison and Davis added 10 apiece for Hampshire.
Smith, with eight 3-pointers, led the Indians with 28 while Matt Volkening scored 10.
"It was the best game of Aiden's career," said Marengo coach Nate Wright. "I am very proud of the kids. We have 650 kids and Hampshire has 1,500 and we battled them to the end. It was a statement game for our team."