BY JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — ARCARDIA — With all the distractions associated with senior night at Hamilton Heights Friday, Taylor’s boys basketball squad appeared primed to give the hosts a run for their money.
The Mid-Indiana Conference-leading Huskies started a non-conventional lineup, and the Titans took advantage, playing Heights even for the first 12 minutes.
The Huskies went to a different gear in the blink of an eye however, igniting a 30-5 run over the next eight minutes, making the sluggish start a distant memory in a 68-45 victory over the Titans.
Heights (14-3, 5-0 MIC) turned the ball over 11 times in the first 12 minutes, allowing Taylor to avoid the Huskies’ full-court pressure for much of the early going. The Huskies went back to their normal rotation and turned the tide after that, as 12 of the Titans’ 18 turnovers came in the middle quarters.
“We just have to be able to do a better job of keeping our composure against a team like Heights,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “You can’t have close to 20 turnovers and have a situation where you’re going to be in the hunt. We have to make sure we’re doing a better job of taking care of the ball against pressure. The middle two quarters hurt us in terms of decision-making on offense and giving up buckets in transition.”
A Latrell Mitchell putback pulled Taylor even at 17-17 with 4:33 to go in the first half after the squads played to a 10-10 tie at the first stop. With its conventional rotation back in the fold, Heights finished the first half on a 16-4 run to jump ahead 33-21 at the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jadon White and Conley Hoover finished off the Huskies’ 14-1 run to start the third quarter, giving Heights a 47-22 lead. The lead swelled to as much as 30 once the flood gates opened, and Heights settled for a 57-30 advantage headed into the fourth quarter.
“We talked all week about staying focused,” Heights coach Chad Ballenger said. “We did start our seniors and gave opportunities to guys who aren’t normally in the starting lineup. They deserved it, and I thought they did a great job, but we didn’t have any momentum with that group, really. There was so much going on and it was tough to stay focused, but I thought we regrouped and really did a great job.
“I thought our defensive effort was really good, and that’s what we hang out hats on.”
Taylor senior Calvin Wheeler scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to spark a 12-4 Titans run, pulling the visitors within 61-42, but the damage had been done.
Wheeler finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Cole Schroeder added nine points for the Titans, including a buzzer-beating trey to end the third quarter, while Mitchell finished with six points and five boards.
Ten of 12 Huskies who saw the floor wound up in the scoring column, led by 16 points each from Hunter Crist and Garrett Paull. Paull, who came off the bench, added eight rebounds and had three of the Huskies’ 11 steals. Bo O’Laughlin added nine points and a game-high nine rebounds in the win for HH.
With the victory, Heights needs wins at Eastern Wednesday and at home against Peru Friday to finish off an unblemished conference run. The Huskies won the MIC with a 6-1 record last season, while Western, Maconaquah and Peru each finished 5-2 in league play last season.
FINAL Taylor 45 Hamilton Hts. 68 Tonight: Taylor hosts Carroll