AVON — Avon Lake appears to be peaking at the right time.
In a season that often has been a struggle — including losing six of seven early in the year and another seven in a row later — the Shoremen gutted out their fifth straight victory, 53-51 over Avon on Tuesday night.
Avon Lake again was led by Brad Hamilton, who dominated the game at times, including for a stretch of the third quarter when the Eagles battled back from a deficit that grew to as many as nine.
Hamilton scored 17 — his average over the last five games, all Shoremen wins — and was helped late by crucial buckets by Jason Hessel and free throws by Christian Jones.
Crucial to the Shoremen’s resurgence has been health, and in particular Hamilton’s recovery from torn ligaments in his ankle, which caused him to miss nine games. He’s back and rounding into form, which has allowed others to resume their normal roles.
“He’s healthy. We saw this all preseason,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said.
“(After the injury), he came back and battled, but you can’t expect him to come back and be in top form right away. He’s a presence inside and he finishes shots, and he’s allowed others to be themselves.”
The Shoremen (8-13) led by as many as nine in the first half before the Eagles cut it to six at the break. Avon (7-13) cut the lead to one twice and tied the game once during the third quarter, but after the tie, Hamilton scored six straight Avon Lake points and Jones followed with a tip-in at the horn to push the lead back to six.
Avon Lake extended it to eight after Jace Russell scored to start the fourth, but Avon’s Jeff Laraway scored and Brian Kelly — who had five 3-pointers and led Avon with 18 points — hit another to cut it to 43-40. Each time, though, Hamilton was there — he earned a three-point play and followed another Kelly basket with one of his own to make it 48-42.
Avon scored the next four, but Hessel drove and scored with 1:10 left after running 75 seconds off the clock. Will Ybarra hit two free throws for Avon, but Jones then made two. Avon’s Johnny Peganoff cut it to one with a three, but Hessel split a pair and Avon’s last prayer went unanswered.
Avon Lake was calm, cool and collected down the stretch, a consistent factor in their five-game stretch.
“They say, let the game come to you, slow down a little bit,” said Hamilton, who shot 8-of-11 from the floor. “As a team, we are playing aggressively, but under control.”
Avon coach Kevin Sapara, whose team has cooled off slightly since its own run a few weeks ago, lamented not being able to get over the hump. The Eagles committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Avon Lake is a good team, especially when they’re at full strength,” Sapara said. “We fought back, but when we cut it to one we just couldn’t get that stop or that basket we needed.”
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 53, Avon 51
AVON LAKE (53): A.J. Outcalt 1-0-2, Jason Hessel 3-4-10, Luke Harris 2-0-5, Christian Jones 2-4-9, Jace Russell 1-0-2, Seth Muck 3-2-8, Brad Hamilton 8-1-17. Totals 20-11-53.
AVON (51): Dan Durrin 3-2-9, Brian Kelly 6-1-18, Michael Smigel 0-1-1, Johnny Peganoff 1-0-3, Zach Torbert 2-2-6, Will Ybarra 3-4-10, Jeff Laraway 2-0-4. Totals 17-10-51.
Avon Lake 15 13 13 12 — 53
Avon 10 12 13 16 — 51
Three-point goals: Avon Lake 2-10 (Harris, Jones), Avon 7-14 (Kelly 5, Peganoff, Durrin). Field goals: Avon Lake 20-38 (53 percent), Avon 17-33 (52 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 11-15 (73 percent), Avon 10-17 (59 percent). Rebounds: Avon Lake 18, (Hamilton 7), Avon 18 (Ybarra 7). Total fouls: Avon Lake 12, Avon 13. Turnovers: Avon Lake 11, Avon 12.
Junior varsity: Avon, 34-31