RUSSIAVILLE — Even though it’s early, Hamilton Heights’ boys basketball team put itself in great position to challenge for a repeat Mid-Indiana Conference title on Friday with a win at Western that hampered the home team’s bid for the same.
The Huskies moved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the MIC by holding off a late Western run and emerging from Richard R. Rea Gymnasium with a 55-44 victory. Western fell to 2-1 in the MIC and 3-2 overall. Peru (1-0) is the only other squad without a blemish in the conference.
Heights led 36-21 with 2:31 left in the third quarter before Western charged back. The Panthers got a triple from Austin Weaver, a bucket and 1 of 2 free throws from Des Balentine, and a great buzzer-beating layup from Gabe Harp off a Balentine outlet to close the third down just seven points at 36-29.
Western closed the gap to a bucket at 42-40 with 2:27 left, but Heights got two free throws from Bo O’Laughlin to start a 10-0 run. After those freebies, Heights followed with two key defensive stops, and then two straight Western turnovers to take control again.
“At that point, our execution wasn’t as sharp as it was earlier,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “We came out there in the third quarter and I thought executed well. Give Heights credit, they’re a good team, they’re a well-coached team. They might have turned up the defense another notch on us and we ended up not executing quite as well toward the end. And they knocked down their free throws there in the fourth quarter and we couldn’t catch up.”
The defensive stand started with two missed 3-pointers by Western with the Huskies up 44-40.
“That was huge, a huge stop,” Heights coach Chad Ballenger said of the second stop. “What it did was it got us to come back down here and get us in our spread game. We got to spread the floor and our guards got to take over, and we got ourselves to the free-throw line.”