Last modified Feb. 04, 2016, at 11:15 p.m.
Not that an eagerly anticipated rematch against a neighboring rival that was sold out a week in advance didn’t provide enough motivation, coach Russ Bartlett’s defending state champions arrived at Brewer High School on Thursday night reminded of their last visit 15 months ago, when they lost their previous meeting to the Witches on this court.
“Right before we came out of the locker room, coach told us to remember the feeling we had after we lost here last year and we really used that as motivation coming out,” said Hampden senior guard Nick Gilpin, who choreographed the victory with 20 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and four steals. “We started really strong and never let down.”
Hampden (18-0) led by as many as 32 points late in the third quarter, and that was without senior forward Brendan McIntyre — sidelined for the third straight game with a micro-fracture in his ankle — while classmate Conar Moore battled foul trouble and senior sharpshooter Jake Black was limited to six points on two 3-pointers.
“I don’t think we are going to accept that,” said Brewer coach Clayton Blood. “We’re looking within, and that’s a very poor performance by us and if we give all the credit to Hampden that’s taking ourselves off the block and it’s also telling us that they’re really awesome and they’re not awesome unless we’re bad. We don’t have to be real bad, but we had a lot to do with it.”
Hampden’s size and depth proved overwhelming, particularly sophomore center Ian McIntyre, their lone non-senior starter.
McIntyre scored a game-high 21 points, including 19 during the first half, as he worked the low post with an assortment of moves that frequently were set up by Gilpin’s forays into the lane.
“We felt we could get whatever type of shot we wanted and noticed that Ian had a mismatch on the inside,” said Gilpin, “so we really tried to make a point of getting him the ball because we know he can do great things once he gets the ball down there.”
McIntyre also fronted Brewer star Matt Pushard defensively, making it hard for the Witches (14-4) to get their leader the ball in scoring position, particularly during the first half.
The Witches’ senior forward was held without a field goal during a first half that ended with Hampden holding a 41-18 lead, and he finished the night with 12 points and eight rebounds.
“We wanted to front him because we realize he’s such a talented post player so playing behind him is kind of difficult,” said McIntyre. “Playing in front of him made them throw the ball up high, which worked well for us but caused a lot of turnovers for them.”
Perimeter defensive pressure by Gilpin, backcourt mate Nick Chasse and Black also denied Brewer’s smaller guards passing lanes to the Brewer big man.
“Obviously our defense set the tone early on with our ball pressure,” said Bartlett. “We spent a lot of time on it yesterday in practice because quite frankly, you have to spend a lot of time on defending Matt Pushard.”
Chasse, starting in place of Brendan McIntyre, added 12 points, while Hampden also got a strong effort off the bench from senior center Zach Boss. Boss, sidelined for much of the season with a stress fracture, complemented McIntyre’s interior defense while grabbing six rebounds in the first half alone.
“Boss is good off the bench,” said McIntyre. “He can come off the bench and not score a point but grab eight rebounds and make three blocks and be fine with his play. Everyone else is, too.”
Brewer never led in the contest, as Hampden outscored the Witches 9-2 over the final five minutes of the first quarter to build a 17-8 lead.
After the Witches’ Damien Vance drove for a three-point play to cut the gap to 19-11 in the opening moment of the second quarter, Hampden outscored Brewer 17-3 — with McIntyre scoring 11 straight Broncos’ points during one stretch — to move out to a 36-14 lead.
And they never let up, looking all the part of a team in search of its fifth consecutive regional title — and perhaps more gold.
Tournament time is here.