The only time Londrell Hamilton acts like a ninth-grader around basketball is when he is walking around the gym with a duffle bag over his shoulder, chewing on a snack.
Someone will say, “Good game,” and he almost bashfully nods his head to acknowledge the supporter.
Hamilton certainly had a good game Friday. With the lead changing hands five times in the final 2 minutes, 4 seconds, Hamilton’s clutch shot and late free throws led No. 7 Lincoln High School to a 50-49 victory over Gonzaga Prep of the Greater Spokane League.
For the first time all season, the Abes found themselves in a down-to-the-wire nail-biter in the opening round of the inaugural Bellarmine Prep Christmas Classic in Tacoma, and it was Hamilton’s efforts that sealed the win.
“He can finish. He is the best passer I’ve ever had. He showed his high basketball IQ tonight,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said.
Josiah Barsh led all scorers with 14 points for the Abes (6-0). Hamilton and Cameron Collins chipped in with eight points apiece. Reed Hopkins tallied 10 points — eight in the fourth quarter — for the Bullpups (3-3).
Lincoln will play host Bellarmine Prep, a 50-37 winner over Columbia River, in the tournament title game Saturday at 7 p.m.
Gonzaga Prep held a 45-42 lead with 3:13 to go, but Lincoln scored the next four points, capped by Barsh’s 14-footer from the right side, to go ahead, 46-45.
Hopkins was not going to let Gonzaga Prep go down without a battle. He hit myriad jumpers, including a 16-footer that gave the Bullpups a 47-46 advantage at the 1:40 mark.
That was when Hamilton decided to call his own number. Calling for fellow guard Dionte Simon to set a pick up high, he rolled off of it and nailed a 5-foot floater in the lane to put the Abes back up, 48-47.
“You naturally think the big guy is going to come over to set the screen like Justice (Martion, who is 6-foot-6), but he called Dionte over to set it because he had a bigger, slower defender on him,” Shelton said. “I didn’t tell him to do that – he made that call on his own. It’s pretty incredible.”
Hopkins gave the Bullpups their final lead, 49-48, with another outside jumper with 52 seconds left. But back came Hamilton, who took it right at Gonzaga Prep senior Frankie Hoerner off the right side and was fouled 13 seconds later.
Hamilton’s two free throws ended up being the winning points, giving Lincoln its final lead.
“I feel like we played good for the most part of the game,” Hamilton said. “Down the stretch we had some bad shots, but we had great possessions the last two possessions.”
Gonzaga Prep still had one last chance. Near the end of the shot clock, Sam Dowd charged to the basket along the right side with five seconds to go, but his shot went too hard off the glass. Hamilton got the ball back and ran out the clock.
“We needed to score in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock and attack the pressure,” Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “We didn’t do that.”
Bellarmine Prep 50, Columbia River 37: Back-to-back 3-pointers by Malachi Flynn and Carson Hollyoak gave the Lions the lead for good with six minutes to go in the game, and Bellarmine Prep (3-5) advanced to the title game of its own tournament.
Flynn’s steal led to Garrett McKay’s fastbreak basket and three-point play that gave the Lions a 40-33 lead with 4:18 left.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com @ManyHatsMilles