It was a make or break week for the HOPE Christian High School boys basketball team.
Due to postponements caused by the recent heavy snow, the Hawks were faced with four games in the last seven days, with the final game of that run against powerhouse St. John’s Northwestern. HOPE School didn’t show any signs of lacking energy Saturday, though.
The Hawks raced to an early lead they never relinquished and topped St. John’s, 59-53, to move into first place in the Midwest Classic North Division, a half-game ahead of St. John’s.
“I told the kids before the game that coaches draw up all these pretty plays and say nice things during timeouts,” said HOPE School coach Lance Meyer. “But it’s ‘ballers’ like them that win games.”
Trailing all game, St. John’s made it a one-possession affair at 54-51 with 40 seconds remaining after senior Miles Holmes made two free throws. The Lancers (15-2, 11-1) then quickly fouled Hawks junior Devon Jones, who made the first free throw but missed the second. Teammate Devon Howard tipped the ball out, however, and Jones swiftly dished it back inside to senior forward Mykaell Bratchett (19 points) for another score and a 57-51 lead.
“That rebound on the missed free throw absolutely killed us there,” said St. John’s coach Tim Richert. “Rebounding all around killed us tonight.”
Down six with half a minute remaining, St. John’s frantically inbounded the ball, but it was knocked loose from behind and junior Daniel Washington put the finishing touches on the Hope School’s biggest win of the season with a monstrous slam.
“I was looking forward to getting that one and finishing this game,” said Washington, who scored 11 points. “It all starts in practice. We play harder in practice than we do in the games sometimes.”
Lancers senior Kevin Mays was kept in check for much of the first half but got it going early in the fourth quarter, converting two straight layups to cut the deficit to 43-41 with just less than 5 minutes to play.
“Honestly, you want to be aggressive getting into his personal space all the time,” said Meyer. “He’s the kind of guy that gets to the offensive rebounds a lot, and we contained it the best we could. He’s a great ballplayer, no doubt.”
Mays was quickly contained after his two straight scores. He was only one of three scorers for the Lancers, finishing with 15 points. Senior DJ Mlachnik led the team with 22 points.
The Hawks (16-3, 12-1) came out one step faster than St. John’s early, as four players scored in their first seven possessions. A three-pointer by Hawks senior Timmy Brown made it 9-0 midway through the first quarter.