Hamilton Heights freshman Chloee Thomas dove for a loose ball midway through the fourth quarter, grabbed it and found an open teammate cutting to the basket for an uncontested layup against Hoosier Conference rival Tipton on Saturday,
The bucket gave the Huskies a 46-point lead - the outcome had long been decided. The Huskies went on to win 74-22 over the Blue Devils, but Heights coach Keegan Cherry took notice of the freshman's effort.
"Chloee has been working her way into some varsity minutes," Cherry said. "That play was a perfect example of what we preach. Regardless of the score, whether we are up by 50, or down by 50, always play your hardest. That proves right there that Chloee is buying into our system. That was a great hustle play that shows us she never gives up until the play is over, and that is what we work on in practice every day."
Hamilton Heights opened the game on a 14-0 run, thanks to a stifling defense that caused eight Tipton turnovers. The Blue Devils didn't make their first basket until the 1:45 mark of the first quarter, on a bucket by junior guard Cassidy Crawford.
Huskies' senior Kayla Kirtley had the hot hand early, scoring eight of her 12 points in the opening quarter. Heights led 17-5 after one.
Cherry said his team showed mental toughness in the blowout victory.
"The girls did a tremendous job of preparing for this game," he said. "They followed the scouting report very well by watching film and just knowing their opponent, and it showed. They won the loose ball battles early on. By far, our team was the mentally tougher team today."
Hamilton Heights opened the second quarter as it started the first. A driving floater by Payton Dissett, followed by a three-pointer from Lauryn Wiley gave the Huskies a 22-8 lead. Tipton did show some life, though. The Blue Devils scored six straight points on two baskets by Rachel Majors and a layup by Kelsey Mitchell, making it 22-14, forcing Cherry to call a timeout.
That eight-point deficit was as close as Tipton would get the rest of the game. After the timeout, Hamilton Heights ended the Devils' mini run on a three-pointer by Bayleigh Runner. That shot ignited a 9-0 run to end the second quarter, and Hamilton Heights took a 31-14 lead into halftime.
"That three-pointer by (Runner) was really one of the key plays of the game," Cherry said. "Tipton, who is no slouch and has some tremendous athletes, put on a little run to cut it to eight or nine points. But that three got us back in rhythm."
Hamilton Heights made sure Tipton would not make a game of it in the third quarter. The Huskies went on 9-0 and 15-0 runs in the third, while only allowing five Blue Devil points. Heights led 57-19 going into the final quarter. The victory moved the Huskies to 12-6 overall and 3-1 in Hoosier Conference action.
Hamilton Heights had a balanced scoring attack in the victory. Runner led the Huskies with 14 points, and Kirtley and Ana Collar scored 12 points each.