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Hastings holds off Hamilton in OT on Senior Night

Hastings junior Evan Eastman goes hard to the hoop along the baseline during his team's non-conference victory over visiting Hamilton Thursday. (Photo by Perry Hardin)

Greg Chandler

Staff writer

Kirby Beck hit a 3-point basket on the first possession of overtime Thursday, then blocked a Hamilton 3-point shot as time expired as the Hastings varsity boys' basketball team gutted out a 59-57 non-conference victory over the Hawkeyes on Senior Night at Hastings High School.

The Saxons finished the regular season with an 8-12 record, but had their season ended with a loss to South Christian to open district play Monday.

Hastings went on a 16-0 run over a seven-minute stretch of the second half to open up a 47-36 lead with 3:48 remaining in regulation last Thursday. But the visiting Hawkeyes responded with a 15-2 spurt, fueled by a full-court press, to take a 51-49 lead on two free throws by Tyler Stezowski with 30.5 seconds remaining.

The Saxons tied it at 51-all on a contested layup by junior Evan Eastman with 13.5 seconds remaining, sending the contest into overtime. Eastman had a huge game for Hastings, pouring in 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

“Hamilton ran two and three guys at him and just tried to throw him down at times,” Saxons' coach Rich Long said. “He never lost his cool and just kept outworking them.”

Beck scored five of his 15 points in overtime, and blocked the potential game-winning 3-point try by  Hamilton's Brant Goodpaster to preserve the win. Beck made 6 of 8 from the free-throw line. Carter Cappon, one of five Saxons honored on Senior Night, hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points.

Logan Zoerhof led Hamilton with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. The Saxons limited Jager Haverdink, the Hawkeyes' leading scorer, to just one field goal and eight points, less than half his season average.

Other seniors honored on Thursday included Luca Franzolini, Elijah Smith, Evan Murphy and J.P. SaintAmour.

South Christian jumped out to a 20-9 lead in its Division 2 District opener against the Saxons in Hastings Monday and then went on to a 58-40 win.

“We didn't play our best game, but played decent,” coach Long said. “Elijah Smith really played well for us as a point guard and floor general. He made a lot of good decisions of when to shoot and when to pass. Our second quarter was not good for us. We had multiple turnovers that led to easy buckets and no shot attempts for us. They also attacked the offensive glass with their height.”

The Sailors extended their lead with a 12-7 second quarter, going up 32-16 at the half.

Connor Dykema led South Christian with 13 points and Sam Meengs added ten. Ty Rynbrandt chipped in nine points and Ryan Dykstra seven. Dykema also had a game-high nine rebounds.

Evan Eastman led the Saxons with 19 points and five rebounds. Beck had seven points and Braden Vertalka six.

“Eastman had another great game and scored consistently throughout the game, but was dominant in the third period, cutting the lead down to ten points,” coach Long said. “Eastman has been improving daily. He continues to gain self confidence and understands how to use his athleticism. We are really looking forward to watching him grow into a senior.”

The win over the Saxons was the seventh straight for the South Christian boys, a run that included a 53-35 win over Grand Rapids Christian in the last week of February.

“South's defense is very solid,” Long said. “I asked their coach before the game how they held Grand Rapids Christian to only 35 points and their second loss of the year and he responded with, our defense is playing really well right now.”

The Sailors were set to put that defense to the test again in a district semifinal ballgame with Wayland last night back at Hastings High School.

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