Two top teams in Southwest Ohio battled it out at UD Arena.

The Springfield South Wildcats and Hamilton Big Blue need no introduction to one another.  These team have a rich history of fantastic games against one another and today at the University of Dayton Arena they renewed their rivalry for the 79th time.  This time it was for the right to head to Columbus, Ohio for the state Final Four as Regional champions. 

For many years the Big Blue and Wildcats have had great battles, but you only have to go back to January 18th of this year to get a preview for what the teams had in store for the fans in this one.  That game, held at the Flyin' To The Hoop National Basketball Tournament, was one of the best games of the event.  Hamilton's defense was the difference in that game.  South's shooters had an off game going 2 for 18 from behind the arch.  The Big Blue triumphed in that matchup 63-52. 

Since that game neither team has lost and many consider this pair of teams the two hottest in the state.  Earlier in the tournament the Wildcats scored 29 points in the first quarter alone and the defeated highly ranked Cincinnati LaSalle to get to this game.  On the other hand, the Big Blue removed the slipper from Cincinnati Sycamore's Cinderella like run in the Regional Semi-final.  Between the two, they have been giant killers and dream crushers and tonight these two fantastic teams are set to battle for a shot at the ultimate prize in Ohio High School Basketball.

One of the difference makers against LaSalle started things off for the Wildcats.  Nate Miller who had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the semi-final scored the first bucket of the game.  South got a few more baskets in transition while Hamilton was having a hard time protecting the ball.  Coach Allen of Hamilton called his first timeout at the 5:31 mark.  PG Brandon Lampley led the Big Blue back with some great passes and scoring.  By the end of the quarter the teams seemed evenly matched with South holding a small lead 14-12.

The second quarter seemed to fly by.  Both teams applied a lot of defensive pressure and there were several turnovers, but most noticeable was South's shooting.  Normally a very good shooting team, the Wildcats did not hit a single three point shot in the half (shades of the game at Flyin To The Hoop).  They finished the half 0 for 6 from behind the arch.  It appeared that the Wildcats may have been feeling the effects of their battle with LaSalle a few nights ago.  LaSalle pressed the entire game and used their full bench to keep fresh legs in the game and try to wear down the Wildcats.  South was able to withstand the Lancers pressure, but that game may have had an effect on this game due to strain it must have taken on South's players.  Their shooting woes combined with excellent rebounding for Hamilton gave the Big Blue a two point lead heading into the half, 24-22.

The third quarter belonged to South early.  At the 5:15 mark Nate Miller missed a breakaway layup, but Von Davis was there for a thunderous slam.  That gave South a 29-26 edge and led to a Big Blue timeout.  Hamilton stormed back and regained the lead keeping South at bay and regaining the lead.  By the end of the third, the Big Blue led 40-37.

The lead was pushed to six and that's where we stood with 35 seconds remaining and South's ball.  The Big Blue came out pressuring Isiah Carson and South had to look for their second option.  Nate Miller floated out behind the arch but missed the three.  The Wildcats were then forced to foul and Hamilton was able to make their throws at the end.  Hamilton advances to the OHSAA Final Four by a score of 54-45.

The South Wildcats, who have proven all year long to be great from behind the arch, failed to hit a single three pointer in the contest.  They finished 0 for 15 behind the arch.  That could be just as much a testimony to the battle the Wildcats had with LaSalle as a result tired legs as well as a Big Blue defense that applied relentless pressure.  However you must give credit to Hamilton for never giving the South guards a good look at the basket.  Hamilton executed a near perfect game plan, making the shooters from South hit from the perimeter and not allowing Nate Miller to take over the game from the inside.  It's interesting to note that South as a team shot over 40% from three point land on the season, but in their two games with Hamilton they combined to go 2 for 33!

Brandon Lampley came up huge for the Big Blue scoring 16 points, dishing out 4 assist, playing suffocating defense and running the point all night.  The big man, Jason Miller, pulled down 10 boards for Hamilton and scored 10 as well.  Freshman, Billy Allen, also had a great night.  He scored 12 and solidified himself as one of the best freshman in the state with his heady play.


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