In Play with Tom Markowski

Hazel Park forces 26 turnovers, survives scare and defeats Troy Athens, 58-53

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Hazel Park forces 26 turnovers, survives scare and defeats Troy Athens, 58-53

Troy – Maybe it was a National Signing Day hangover but whatever it was, the Hazel Park-Troy Athens game on Friday resembled a football game without pads at times.

Athens was in the double bonus in the first quarter, merely an appetizer for what was in store.

Hazel Park survived the rough-and-tumble game as juniors David Hearns and Khari Adams each scored 14 points to lead the Vikings to a 58-53 victory over Athens in an Oakland Activities Association White Division contest at Athens.

This type of game was not what Hearns or Hazel Park coach Brandon Barrett. The Vikings prefer an up-tempo pace that, they hope, would lead to a plethora of possessions.

Instead the first half moved at a snail’s pace with 26 fouls called. There were 48 fouls called in the game.

“I thought (the officials) called it too close, for the type of athletes on both sides,” Barrett said. “But we can’t do anything about that. We want to speed the game up. (Athens) did a good job of dictating tempo. You hope with veteran teams they can adjust. And we did that.”

Jacob Brantley’s two free throws gave Athens its largest lead, 21-12, with 17.9 seconds left in the first quarter. Devin Pettus’ 3-pointer at the buzzer pulled Hazel Park to within six points.

The Red Hawks went scoreless for the first 3:30 of the second quarter and, during this time, Hazel Park went to the free throw line 10 times but converted just six.

Poor free throw shooting kept the Vikings from enjoying a more comfortable lead throughout the second half.

Athens scored the first two baskets, the second by Brendt Stephens, to take a 34-32 lead.

Hazel Park regained the lead on Carl Bow’s 3-point play and the Vikings never lost that lead but were never able to pull away.

A Pettus basket after his steal gave Hazel Park a 52-47 lead with 4:33 left but a 3-pointer and a free throw by Jack Wilson brought the Red Hawks to within 52-51 with 3:47 remaining.

Athens wouldn’t score again until a Stephens basket just before the final horn.

Athens committed 26 turnovers, four in the final two minutes that eventually would be its undoing.

“We had some inopportune turnovers in the last four minutes,” Athens coach Dave Scott said. “We’re young. We have 10 juniors. We start two seniors but it’s our juniors who get the bulk of our minutes.”

Stephens and Brantley each had 10 points for Athens (6-7, 2-3).

Hazel Park (10-2, 5-0), ranked No. 6 in Class B, has an Achilles heel at the free throw line. The Vikings were 19-of-38, 4-of-10 in the fourth.

They were without 6-10 center Kris Lafayette who was out with the flu.

“The refs called a closer game than were used to,” Hearns said. “Our defense picked us up. We played help defense. We got some easy baskets in transition. To get better? We got to make out free throws.”

Indeed.