That was all that separated the Williams Yellowjackets (15-5, 2-1) and the Hamilton Braves (11-8, 2-1) when they last met in Williams on Jan. 20.
Hamilton head coach Brian Erickson said that his team was able to rebound relatively well against a bigger Yellowjackets squad in that contest, and played solid pick-and-roll defense in the second half to come away with the close win.
More importantly, the Braves kept Williams’ top three players in check, which will again be key if Hamilton hopes to win their game against the Yellowjackets on Friday.
“If you can limit (Bryson) Bowen, (Anthony) Davalos, and (Alex) Velazquez, I think you can stick in the ballgame,” Erickson said this week. “We did that the first game.”
This time around, Hamilton has the benefit of playing in front of their own crowd, who are expected to show up in force: It’s homecoming for the Braves on Friday.
“You know, every high school team feeds off of the crowd. It should be a packed house,” Erickson said. “We hope to play well and get some momentum going early. I think it will definitely play in our favor.”
As for Williams, head coach Tony Hermann said after last Friday’s game against East Nicolaus that he would like to see his team take better care of the basketball and have fewer empty possessions moving forward.
“I would rather have a shot at the basket… Rather than turning it over. If we can put up a shot, even if it’s missed, at least we have a chance. If we’re putting it up rather than turning it over, it gives us a chance – even if it’s an offensive rebound,” Hermann said. “I want us to take care of ball on offensive possession.”
Friday’s game is the second of a three-game league series between the Yellowjackets and the Braves – a game that will be crucial if Williams is to achieve their ultimate regular season goal of a Mid-Valley League Championship.
“I think all three schools are very competitive with one another, as we can tell: The three of us have all beat each other,” Williams head coach Tony Hermann said.
At the time of publication, Williams was tied with Durham and Hamilton at the top of the Mid-Valley League table, with just six games – all MVL contests – remaining in the season.
“It’s going to be competitive all the way down to the wire. I think it will be the team that stays healthy, can get some momentum going, in terms of getting two or three wins in a row, that will give them a push to the finish,” Hermann said.
Hamilton head coach Brian Erickson noted that while wasn’t a fan of the structure of the MVL, it did help ensure a tight race for the league crown.
“It’s kind of a crummy league setup, I think, that they made: You play each team three times, and it’s really hard to beat a team three times in a season, no matter how strong you are,” Erickson said. “Durham is coming on strong, East Nic could sneak in a win – it’s going to come down to the wire, and it could be any one of the three of us (Durham, Hamilton, or Williams).”