The Hillcrest Patriots defeated the Northridge Jaguars by a score of 47-36. Both DJ Hamlett and Osa Alohan finished with 14 points, while Shah Hall only scored eight but pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. The Jags were led by forward James Wilkin, who finished with a team-high 11 points and guard Taylor Halperin, who had nine.

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This game was a tale of two halves, with one side dominating in the first half and the other in the second. Northridge's quick shooting and tenacious defense dominated the first half while Hillcrest was unable to generate any offense.

In the second quarter, the Jaguars allowed only two points. Hillcrest appeared disinterested early on, the body language was poor, and the Patriots were playing poorly left and right. Northridge led at halftime, 22-15.

Hillcrest head coach Scott Suttles discussed the reasons behind Hamlett's first-half struggles.

“Well, he’s been really banged up. His knee has been swollen. He hadn’t practiced the last two days we had to keep him. The swelling did go down, and it was a late afternoon decision," said Suttles.

"He [Hamlett] showed a lot of tenacity and determination," said Suttles. "You could tell it was taking its toll on him in the first half, but he caught his second wind and really showed his perseverance and toughness in the second half."

In the third quarter, the entire script was flipped. Hillcrest came out with a lot more energy than the first half. The Patriots' on-ball defense improved, forcing missed shots, they scored frequently whether it was getting to the rim or making jump shots, and their key players got rolling.

"We didn't take quality shots in the first half; we rushed things a little bit too much," said Suttles. "I thought we played much more inside out at the start of the third quarter. The first three minutes were crucial in not just cutting the deficit in half but also tying the game."

The last thing you want to happen when you have to go to face the Patriots is for their fans to get into the game, especially their student section. Northridge did a fantastic job of keeping the home team's fan base silent early in the game, but after the shots stopped falling and Hillcrest went on a 7-0 scoring run to grab the lead, the rest was history for the Jags. The crowd erupted after dunks by Alohan and Hall.

Ironically, Hillcrest scored 14 points in the third quarter while limiting Northridge to only two. The Jags did not score again until the mid-fourth quarter, and their last made shot came in the middle of the third quarter. Northridge struggled from deep, making only four of 15 three-point attempts in the second half. One of Northridge's best shooters, John Walker, went scoreless in the game.

"For the most part, we did a really good job on Anderson Wilkin and John Walker," said Suttles. “He [Walker] had 16 when we played them 45 days ago, so Davion [Wilkin] did a wonderful job on him.”

"Our guys were really immature at the beginning of the year and didn't understand the importance of film study," said Suttles of his team's improving defense. "Now that we're getting towards the end, I think they truly knew their assignments, who to push up, who to lock and trail, and I thought we did a good job."

Furthermore, the Jags were unable to do anything in the paint due to Hall's outstanding work as an anchor for the Patriots' defense. Hall only had two blocks on the night, but he contested multiple Northridge shots. Jaguar forward Patton Currington is one of the best post players in the area at getting to the line and scoring in the post, but at 6-foot-3, he struggled to match up with the 6-foot-8 big man with a 7-foot wingspan from Hillcrest.

"He has impeccable timing," said Suttles, “where he will wait until the ball is almost released before he goes and gets it. Much of that is a God-given ability, but he has also honed his craft in that area. For every shot he doesn’t block, he alters and changes several more, so he was huge for us on the defensive glass.”

With the loss, Northridge will be seeded fourth in the Area-6 tournament, while Hillcrest will be seeded third. Both clubs have games left before the tournament in February, with both set to play again on Monday. Hillcrest will host Sipsey Valley at 7 p.m. and Northridge will play at Tuscaloosa County High School at 7 p.m.

Hillcrest vs Northridge

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