Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig wasn’t sure what this year’s boys basketball team's identity needed to be.
He still isn’t – it’s only the beginning of December – but a championship at the Fear the Hop tournament last weekend helped shine a light.
The Huskies beat Phoenix Carl Hayden, Skyline, Mesa and Red Mountain to win the tournament at Mesa High School, and did so with defense and enough perimeter shooting to ease a few question marks about this group (at least temporarily).
Mesa took third place with a down-to-the-wire 49-46 win over Carl Hayden, while Highland rolled past Skyline for a fifth-place finish.
Not only did Hamilton handle Mesa’s pressure defense in the semifinals, the Huskies got key contributions from Zach Evans on slashes to the basket, McCall Dylan and Anthony Withers.
Evans’ ability to weave his way to the basket and finish the play – something Hartwig believed needed to improve from last year – helped collapse defenses and set up a few open looks from outside throughout the tournament.
“They worked hard. It was exciting for the kids,” Hartwig said. “There’s a long way to go but some pretty good things to build on, we’ve got some work to do.”
In beating the Lions for the championship, Hamilton got a boost from 6-foot-7 forward James Sosinski, the football team’s backup quarterback who made it from University of Phoenix Stadium after the Huskies’ loss to Mountain Pointe, back to Mesa “three minutes before tip-off,” according to Hartwig. Sosinski played about a dozen minutes but his interior play will be pivotal for Hamilton moving forward.
In the interim, however, the Huskies defended and rebounded, a key part of the team’s future.
“We have to defend well and that’s something we’ve done so far,” Hartwig said. “Hopefully we can continue to improve in that area.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.