In the second half, however, the visiting Hawks took over. All they needed was a late first-half run to establish the tempo.
Once Hillgrove returned to the court to start the second half, it picked up right where it left off and won 67-52 in the Region 4AAAAAA opener for both teams at Campbell’s Wills Gym.
Three players scored in double figures for Hillgrove (4-0, 1-0), led by Kyle Castlin’s 17 points. He did most of his scoring in the fourth quarter, in the Hawks’ attempt to put the game out of reach.
Keith Ray had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds and was largely responsible for launching the late first-half run that put Hillgrove in the driver’s seat. B.J. Brown contributed with 16 points.
There were sixth ties in the first half, and Campbell (3-1, 0-1) led a majority of the time.
All seemed to be going well when Mike Olmert made a pair of foul shots to put the Spartans ahead 25-20 with roughly a minute left in the half.
Then, the momentum of the game changed.
“We kind of got on a little run before the half,” Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said.
It started with a three-point play by Ray, and after he got fouled again seconds later, Ray returned to the line to tie the game with two more free throws. Shamari Southwell then gave Hillgrove the lead for good by hitting one of two free throws, and Castlin increased it to three with a layup.
After Campbell cut it back to one on a Bryce Mitchell bucket, Brown delivered a 3 during the waning seconds of the first half to put the Hawks ahead by four.
Once the second half started, Hillgrove began hitting the shots it was missing in the first half, and Campbell’s shooting percentage went in the opposite direction. The Hawks ended up shooting better than 50 percent from the field in the second half, while the Spartans were only 1-for-9 from the field in the third quarter.
A 9-2 Hillgrove run consumed the first 4 minutes of the third quarter to put the Hawks ahead 41-29, and Campbell never got within nine points the rest of the way.
Morris credited depth for Hillgrove’s success in the second half.
“In the second half, we had fresh bodies to go up against their pressure,” Morris said. “Being able to run fresh guys for 24 minutes played was huge in the third quarter.”
Hillgrove’s defining moment of the fourth quarter was when Ray hit a 3 to put the Hawks in front by 19, and Castlin converting a layup with 4:40 left put Hillgrove ahead 60-35.
Campbell came up with a run of its own late in the fourth quarter to cut into the Hillgrove lead.
Nick Mitchell led the Spartans with 14 points, and Donte Scott finished with 13.
Hillgrove 56, Campbell 54: The Lady Hawks had a nine-point halftime lead and were playing well enough to keep the Lady Spartans at bay in the teams’ Region 4AAAAAA opener.
Campbell had other ideas.
It took a game-winning layup by Aleigha Cass on Hillgrove’s final possession, and a missed 3-point attempt by Campbell’s Mikayla Wilson, for the Lady Hawks (4-0, 1-0) to hold on.
Campbell upped its full-court pressure in the second half and forced Hillgrove to turn the ball over 14 times after the break. After struggling to hit their shots early, the Lady Spartans began to see them fall, and Julie McKie finished a missed shot to tie the game at 54-all with a little more than 10 seconds left on the clock.
Hillgrove worked quickly through Campbell’s full-court pressure and got the ball to Cass for the open layup. And with only seconds to spare, Wilson couldn’t get her 3-pointer to fall.
Mackenzie Engram led Hillgrove with 18, and Cass added 14.
McKie led Campbell with 13 points, Kanchi Patel chipped in with 12 and D’Asia Cain added 11.